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Sunday, December 31, 1989

New Years Eve

London


Crowley checks his watch for the millionth time in the past five minutes; unsurprisingly, only five minutes have passed. He drops his head back against the couch, then he drains what’s left of his Coke and hoists himself off the couch, a welcomed escape from the couple who’ve begun to make out rather enthusiastically to his left.

Anathema ambushes him while he’s on his way to get another drink. She grabs his arm in the darkness of the hallway that leads to the kitchen, scaring him halfway out of his skin.

“Woah, don’t piss your pants!” she exclaims, laughing at his bewildered expression. “Having fun?”

“No,” Crowley snaps, brushing past her and into the kitchen.

“Ooh, someone’s cranky,” she says, following behind him. “Just a Coke? I could find you a beer, it’s not like they’re hidden.”

“I don’t drink beer,” Crowley says. “And I have to drive.”

“Right,” Anathema says, nodding. “Come to the bathroom with me.”

Crowley nearly drops his newly acquired Coke. “What?!”

“Come to the bathroom with me!” she says again; she loops their arms together. “Come on, buddy system.”

“Don’t call me buddy,” Crowley gripes, being dragged along for the ride. 

She pushes open the door of the bathroom, flings Crowley inside, then shuts and locks it behind them. Newt is sitting on the tank of the toilet, tapping his feet on the closed lid. “Oh, hey Anthony.”

Crowley looks between them. “What is this, an intervention?”

“Yeah, for you to stop being so damn cranky,” Anathema retorts. “You’re at a party! It’s New Year’s Eve! Have some fun!”

“I have plenty of reasons to be cranky, I’ll have you know,” Crowley says.

“Name one,” Anathema demands.

“I had to wake up early for church this morning, I have to wake up early for church tomorrow morning, it’s late, I’m old, my knees hurt, and I’m tired,” Crowley lists off.

“He also doesn’t have anybody to snog at midnight,” Newt stage whispers to Anathema.

“You know what, fine, I’ll admit to that,” Crowley snaps. “Maybe I want to have my tongue in someone’s mouth!”

“So go out there and put your tongue in someone’s mouth!” Anathema encourages him.

“I don’t make out with strangers,” Crowley says.

“Queen concert!” Anathema reminds him.

“That was once! That was one time!” Crowley exclaims. “And it was a Queen concert! Are you telling me you wouldn’t want to make out with someone at a Queen concert?!”

“He kinda has a point,” Newt says. “Either way, Anathema, he doesn’t want to make out with a stranger. He wants a boyfriend.”

Anathema sighs loudly, then looks pointedly at Crowley. “Sit down.”

He looks around. “On the floor?”

She steps forward and puts her hands on his shoulders, walking him backwards. As soon as he realizes what she’s doing, be begins to protest. “Oh— Anathema— no, I don’t— I don’t want to sit in the tub—!”

She wrangles him into the tub, anyway. He sits with his legs hanging over the edge. “Thanks.”

“No problem,” she says. “Newt, do you have a pen?”

“Always,” he says, producing one from the pocket of his jacket and handing it over. Anathema rummages in her bag for a moment, before producing a folded up piece of paper; she unfolds it to reveal a menu for a Chinese restaurant.

“Why do you have a menu in your bag?” Crowley asks.

“I don’t know, I have lots of things in my bag,” Anathema says. She turns the paper over to the blank side and begins writing. 

“Resolutions!” she announces. She puts down the number one. “Get laid.”

“Oh, that’ll be so difficult.” Crowley rolls his eyes.

“The list isn’t for me,” Anathema says smugly. “It’s for you.”

Crowley blushes fiercely. “I don’t want to get laid.”

“You need to get laid,” Anathema assures him.

He scowls, sinking into the tub. “I wanna lose my virginity to my husband. You know that.”

“Right, yeah, the Catholic thing,” Anathema mutters.

“It’s not a Catholic thing!” Crowley exclaims. “And I’m not— I’m— it’s whatever! It has nothing to do with my religion, it’s just a personal preference.”

“Not even hand stuff?” Anathema asks, disbelieving.

He frowns at her and shakes his head. 

“Get a boyfriend, then,” Newt proposes, leaning forward. 

Anathema scratches get laid out and replaces it with get a boyfriend. “What next?” she asks.

“Speaking of organized religion,” Newt says brightly. “Stop going to church. It frustrates you and you think it’s dumb.”

“Can’t,” Crowley says. “It’ll make my mum mad.”

But Anathema has already written it down. “Speaking of your mum,” she says, penning number three. “You should tell her you’re, like, super gay.”

“Make things difficult between us again for, like, ten more years, right, great,” Crowley says flatly, reaching into his jacket pocket. “Sounds like a plan.”

“Oh, another good one, thank you for providing us with a visual,” Anathema says, continuing to write. “Quit smoking.”

Crowley holds a cigarette between his lips. “I’m not gonna quit smoking.”

“Why not?” Newt asks. “It causes cancer, you know.”

“I’ll take my chances, thanks,” Crowley says, flicking his lighter open.

Someone knocks loudly on the bathroom door. All three of them respond: “Occupied!”

Crowley winces. “They’re gonna think we’re having a threesome.”

“Or doing drugs,” Newt says nervously.

Anathema taps the pen against her lips. “What else?”

Crowley takes a drag and sighs. “Get promoted?” he suggests reluctantly. “I’d love to be the manager so I could make the schedules and stop working the weirdest hours known to man.”

“Okay,” Anathema says happily. “That makes five. Get a boyfriend, stop going to church, come out, quit smoking, and get promoted.”

“Yippee,” Crowley says unenthusiastically from the tub.

Outside, other party-goers begin counting down from thirty. Anathema hops off the counter and hands the list to Crowley; he folds it up and shoves it into his pocket.

“Could you, er…” she trails off.

Crowley takes another drag. “I’m finishing my cigarette.”

“Fine,” Anathema says, “but I’d like to snog my boyfriend.”

“Aw, sucks,” Crowley says.

“Can’t you…” she says, gesturing for him to move his feet. He groans, scooting back so he’s sitting longways in the tub, his back against the wall, his feet on either side of the faucet.

“Thanks,” she says. She winks at him, then shuts the curtain. Crowley lets his head fall back against the tiles and takes a drag of his cigarette into the new year.

Chapter Text

Monday, January 1, 1990

New Years Day

The Solemnity of Mary, the Mother of God

London


“Happy New Year.”

Aziraphale turns, a bit startled, at the man now standing to his right; he’s tall, much taller than him, with dark hair and long limbs. His hands are tucked into the pockets of his slacks, and he’s somewhat folded in on himself, like he feels uncomfortable just standing there.

“Happy New Year,” Aziraphale returns smoothly, “Mister…?”

“Crowley.”

“Mr. Crowley. Did I see you at mass yesterday?”

“Yes,” Crowley says. He would have been incredibly hard to miss. “Been coming in the last couple of weeks. I’ve been moving around. I’m looking for a church.”

“Oh!” Aziraphale says. “Well, we—”

“Oh, you don’t have to give me the spiel,” Crowley says quickly. “I like it well enough. S’nice. You work here?”

“No,” Aziraphale says, “although sometimes it feels like I do, I spend so much time here. I own a shop in Soho.”

Crowley nods, eyes flitting around the room as people mill out of the building. “It’s a small church,” he comments. “I was worried I wouldn’t be able to find anything niche.”

“Is Catholicism niche?”

Crowley snickers, cracking a smile for the first time since he wandered up. “No, I suppose not,” he says, amused. “I just mean— er, the church I go to with my mum isn’t very big, is all. I didn’t want to end up somewhere huge.”

“Well, we’re rather small, so I hope you decide to stick around,” Aziraphale says helpfully.

“Yeah,” Crowley says, a bit absently. “Thanks. Mister, er…”

“Call me Aziraphale.”

“Ah,” Crowley says. “Alright. Aziraphale.”

He looks around the lobby, which is mostly empty now. He suddenly looks extremely out of place. “Right. Well, I need to head on down to work.”

“Sure,” Aziraphale says. “It was nice to meet you, Mr. Crowley. I’m glad you’ve taken interest in our church.”

“Right,” Crowley says again. “Happy New Year.”

“So you said,” Aziraphale says, amused. “Happy New Year. Hope to see you next week.”

“Oh, I’m sure you will,” Crowley says vaguely, already wandering towards the door.


Friday, January 5, 1990

First Session

London


“You’re late.”

Crowley huffs, shoving a bottle of wine into Anathema’s hands before anything else. “You told me to bring something to drink.”

“I didn’t think it would take you two years,” Anathema retorts, ushering him through the door and shutting it loudly behind him. “You’d think you’d have better time management with that fancy watch of yours.”

“Okay, well, your manager didn’t make you stay behind almost an hour to finish something you could’ve done tomorrow,” Crowley gripes, shrugging his coat off and tossing it on the arm of the couch. “I wanted to go home and shower and change, but all I had time to do was grab a bottle.”

“Well, at least you look nice in khakis,” Anathema says. She turns towards the kitchen. “Newt! Grab me three glasses and a corkscrew!”

“Gotcha!” Newt says from where he’s hidden in the kitchen.

Crowley sits down at the table. “I can’t stay late.”

“What?” Anathema asks, sitting down across from him. “It’s the first night of the campaign! It’s gonna take us hours to find a rhythm!”

Crowley rolls his eyes and check his watch. “Well, if we start now, I can stay for two—”

Anathema makes an agonized noise.

“—fine, three hours.”

“That’s better, but still not ideal,” Anathema settles. “We’ll see how you feel with some wine in you.”

“Oh, wine?” Newt asks, freezing as he emerges from the kitchen. He’s holding three mugs.

Anathema turns and laughs at him. “Why’d you think I asked for the corkscrew?”

“Let me—”

“No, no,” Anathema waves him over. “We’re committed now.”

“We’re really not,” Newt insists. “I can grab proper glasses.”

“Oh, come sit down,” Crowley says, pushing Newt’s chair out with his foot. “Keep us waiting any longer we’ll have to start drinking from the bottle.”

“Now there’s an idea,” Anathema says.

“Alright,” Newt says, hastily setting the mugs down on the table. “No need for that. We’re not barbarians.”

Crowley opens the wine with the ease of practice. 

“Alright,” Newt says, getting his notes in order. “I believe I’ve got quite the campaign for the two of you.”

Crowley pours the three of them their drinks while Newt explains himself a little further. Anathema listens, endeared, and gladly takes her mug when Crowley slides it over to her.

“Same characters, I’m assuming,” Newt says idly, opening his notebook up.

“Agnes hasn’t died yet,” Anathema says.

“Okay,” Newt says; he takes a sip of his wine, makes a face for a split second, then pulls his notebook up to his face and adjusts his glasses. “Let me set the scene for you.”

They play for a little over three hours, Crowley and Anathema taking their time exploring the new world Newt has set up for them, all while he gradually nudges them along the first swath of plot he has planned. Somewhere along the line they finish the bottle of wine, and none of them are close to drunk, but all three of them are pleasantly buzzed.

Crowley drums his fingers on the table, listening while Anathema argues with Newt over why she should be allowed to roll to seduce the puzzle he’s set up.

“It’s not sentient,” he keeps insisting.

“Sex toys aren’t sentient, they can still be used in the bedroom,” Anathema points out.

“Sure,” Newt says, blushing deeply. “But you don’t have to seduce them to use them, you just use them.”

“Fine. I roll to—”

“I, er,” Crowley says, scooting his chair back and standing up, “need a smoke.”

He checks his watch. “I should probably be going, anyways.”

“Oh,” Anathema groans. “Why the rush? We usually play late.”

“Well, I’ve got to get home soon, at the last stroke of midnight I turn back into a pumpkin,” Crowley says.

Newt laughs loudly, then clears his throat awkwardly when the two look at him. “I, er—” he looks back down at his notebook. “Can I get through this last page? It would be a better stopping point.”

“If you can talk Ms. Nutter over here out of seducing a puzzle,” Crowley says, sitting back down. 

“Alright, fine,” Anathema says. “I can think of better things to seduce, anyways.”

She winks at Newt, who blushes and sinks down in his chair, hiding behind his notebook.

“Seriously, why the rush?” Anathema asks once they finish the puzzle, and Crowley busies himself gathering up their mugs to put them in the kitchen.

“Got to head out to Tadfield in the morning,” he says, weary, as he sets the mugs in the sink. He doesn’t rinse them, just leaves them. “Three Kings Day.”

“Ah,” Anathema says. “Catholicism.”

“Speaking of,” Newt says, shutting his notebook and setting it on the table, “we should probably get around to taking our tree down.”

“You call that a tree?” Crowley asks, pointing at the sorry excuse for a Christmas tree in the corner.

Newt frowns. “There was an attempt.”

“You’re one to talk,” Anathema says. “You didn’t even put up a tree in your flat.”

“Why bother?” Crowley asks, grabbing his coat off the couch. “Spent it with my mum, anyways. Gotta help her take it down tomorrow.”

Anathema stands and meets him at the door as he fishes his keys out of his pocket. “Thanks for the wine.”

“Thanks for the good time,” Crowley says. “Goodnight Newt. Anathema.”

“Drive safe!” Newt calls from where he’s disappeared into the kitchen.

“Night, Anthony,” Anathema says, before he slips out of the small flat into the hallway.

“Evening, Anthony!” 

Crowley turns at the sound of his name, his eyes landing on two familiar figures emerging from the lift. 

“Evening Ms. Potts,” he says stiffly as he starts towards them, “Sergeant Shadwell.”

“Ah, ye always have t’start chattin’ with the nancy boy,” Shadwell mutters, and Ms. Potts swats him on the shoulder.

“That’s me, local nancy boy,” Crowley says, aiming to sound collected but ending up just sounding somewhat frazzled as he slips past them. “You two have a nice night.”

“Aye, yerself, as well,” Shadwell grumbles, after some prompting from Ms. Potts.

Crowley has to stand facing them awkwardly in the lift while he waits for the doors to close, and when they finally do he leans wearily against the back wall of the lift and thinks only of how desperately he needs the cigarette he’s about to smoke.


Saturday, January 6, 1990

Three Kings Day

Tadfield


The Them are peering over the gate by the alleyway when Crowley climbs out of his car; he pretends not to see them. He doesn’t have a fantastic grasp of what children of certain ages enjoy doing.* 

*He can recall a specific incident when the Them were about eight; they were playing in the alleyway while Crowley was gardening, and Pepper fell into the street and knocked out six of her front teeth all at the same time. At the time Crowley hadn’t been able to recall at what age he had lost his baby teeth, so he had been unsure whether they had likely been loose before, or if she was dying. 

He’s unsure now whether they still enjoy things like playing spy, but even if they don’t, he ignores them. They’re not being terribly discreet, but it’s best to let them think they are, lest they learn how to properly sneak around. The only thing Tadfield needs less than a rowdy Them is a sneaky Them.

“Hi, Mr. Crowley!” Pepper shouts out just as Crowley gets to the door. He puts his key back in his pocket and backtracks.

“Hi, Pepper,” he says from the edge of the porch. “Bit cold for the Them to be out and about, don’t you think?”

“We’re not the Them anymore,” Brian says.

“Yeah, we’re the Secret Four now,” Adam informs him officially.

“Gotcha,” Crowley says, immediately forgetting the new gang name; they’d be the Them forever. “But I doubt your parents want you out in the cold.”

“Yeah, can we go back in?” Wensleydale asks.

“We saw your car,” Brian tells Crowley.

“We’re having a Dungeons and Dragons meeting tomorrow!” Pepper says.

“We are?” Wensleydale asks, and she elbows him so hard he falls off the fence back into the alleyway; Crowley winces.

Pepper looks back at him. “We play at the quarry if you want to join.”

“Party members only!” Brian argues.

“Mr. Crowley’s an honorary party member,” Adam says smartly. “He showed us the game.”

“Ah, thanks,” Crowley says awkwardly. “But it’s a bit cold for the quarry. Besides, I’ve got church.”

The Them groan at the idea of church, which makes Crowley chuckle. “Best be heading back in now,” he says. “You’ll catch your death.”

“You sound like my mum,” Adam groans, but nevertheless hops down off the fence. The rest of the Them follow suit, and Crowley can hear them retreat down the alleyway thanks to the loud clacking noise of Pepper’s bike.

Truthfully, the Them think Crowley is cool. In fact, they’re the only people in the world who feel this way. 

Inside smells like floral perfume and sweet cigarettes; the scent is comforting. “Here,” he calls out vaguely, locking the door behind him and making his way to the kitchen. 

Rose comes to perch in the doorway; she is, for a mother of someone Crowley’s age, older than she ought to be. She regards her son warmly, with the stiffness of someone who knows him very well indeed, but has become very distant. 

“Hi, mum,” Crowley says; he doesn’t attempt to hug her, because he knows if he tries she’ll simply skirt further away.

She hums. “How was the drive?”

“Fine.”

She watches him place a plastic bag in the fridge. “Going to make Alfredo?”

“Brought the stuff for it.”

“You always make the sauce too thick.”

He purses his lips. “I like it thick. I’m the one making it.”

Rose sighs. Crowley slides his bag off the table. “The Them are out and about.”

“Catch their death,” she mutters. “Can’t believe their parents let them run about like that.”

“You used to let me,” Crowley points out. “And I didn’t even have a gang.”

“You’re responsible.”

“Dunno. That Adam Young seems responsible enough.”

“Don’t tease, Anthony.”

“I’m not teasing,” Crowley says; he slips past her into the den. “Dunno, he just seems wise beyond his years, or something.”

Rose shakes her head as she follows him. Crowley continues. “Tadfield’s not that big. If I had a kid, I’d let them run around.”

Rose regards him hopefully, and Crowley squirms, looking away. “Course, never in the winter,” he tacks on lamely.

The subject shifts away from prospective grandchildren, and Rose’s face drops. Nevertheless, she follows the topic. “Never let you out in the winter,” she muses, sitting down on the couch with a small noise of effort. “What, with your Raynaud’s and all that. Your fingers and toes all probably would’ve fallen off.”

Crowley sets his bag down and sits at the other end of the couch, crossing his ankles. “Remember when I jumped in the lake on New Years when I was thirteen?”

Rose makes a face. “You weren’t very bright at times. Probably would’ve fit right in with your own Them.”

Crowley sighs. “I would’ve loved a gang.”

“Well, you had your… friends.”

Crowley frowns. “Dunno if I’d call Hastur and Ligur friends. Certainly not Bells.”

“You’d have done good to keep them in line,” Rose says, a bit tetchy. “The Them could benefit from someone sensible.”

“Eh, they’ve got Pepper,” Crowley shrugs.

“Who?” Rose asks. “Oh, Pippin.”

Crowley hums a disapproving noise.

“S’the name her mum calls her Anthony,” Rose insists. “Pippin isn’t such a terrible name. Although, I’d probably change mine, too, if my full name was Pippin Galadriel Moonchild.”

Crowley makes a face. “Why would you name your child that?”

“I wouldn’t,” Rose insists. “You know, I think she fancies you.”

Crowley stiffens. “What?”

“Comes around asking about you all the time,” Rose says. “S’quite cute.”

“S’quite weird,” Crowley says.

“Oh, not at all,” Rose insists. “All girls do it. I had a crush on my neighbor when I was a girl, he must’ve been twice my age.”

“S’weird,” Crowley says again.

“You had a crush on Mr. Tyler,” Rose says, and then bites her tongue uncomfortably and sits back on the couch.

“I did not,” Crowley says immediately, then doubles back and gives it some thought. “Oh, God, did I?”

“Pippin’s always asking about you,” Rose says, purposely changing the subject; Crowley notices the abruptness of it, but doesn’t comment. “Asks about your dungeons game and the garden. Come spring I think she’d like you to show her a thing or two—”

She breaks off suddenly in a coughing fit, leaning into her elbow.

“Don’t think I’ll be doing that,” Crowley says awkwardly, then waits for her to stop. She doesn’t for several moments. “Are you alright?”

Rose clears her throat. “Fine,” she says. “Think I’ve caught a cough.”

“It is cold,” Crowley says, standing. “I’ll put the kettle on.”


 Sunday, January 7, 1990

Tadfield


The Them play a clever game to get each parent to think their children are at one another’s houses, and meet at the quarry at ten. 

Brian and Adam are the first to arrive, wrapped up in their coats and shivering. “Why’re we havin’ our meeting out here?” Brian asks, bouncing on his feet in an attempt to keep himself warm. “Why couldn’t we just meet at Wensleydale’s?”

“Because Pepper wanted to invite Mr. Crowley,” Adam says. “And you can’t just invite a grown-up to your house. S’not allowed.”

“Mr. Crowley isn’t even gonna come,” Brian mutters. “We’re gonna freeze to death because of Pepper’s stupid crush.”

Pepper’s loud, clacking bike can be heard coming closer, then, and Brian immediately shuts up. It was quite true that Pepper had a crush on Mr. Crowley, but the implications of what would happen if any of the boys teased her about it were terrifying.

Pepper tosses a zip-lock bag onto the chalky ground; it contains two regular, six sided dice, because when Mr. Crowley had told them they needed to use dice, he hadn’t specified which kind, so they went with what they had.

Wensleydale was the last to arrive, bundled up even more than the rest of them. “Couldn’t we meet at mine?”

“I said quarry,” Pepper insists, sitting down on the cold ground.

“Mr. Crowley isn’t gonna come, he’s at church,” Wensleydale points out.

“Nu-uh, I saw people leaving the church when I was biking over,” Pepper says. “Church is over. He might come.”

Brian grabs the zip-lock bag and struggles to open it with gloved hands. “Let’s just start so we can get it over with.”

Pepper looks like she wants to argue, but she’s shivering just as hard as the rest of them.

Adam DMs, as usual, although he lacks a notebook, or any sort of notes at all. He makes everything up as he goes, often neglecting things that happened last session, and treating the world as though they’ll never have another.

“You can’t do that to the M25!” Wensleydale exclaims. “Our characters use that!”

“Not often!” Adam argues.

“Often enough!” Pepper offers.

“Can’t use it ever if it’s on fire!” Brian agrees.

“It’s important to the story!” Adam argues. “I’ll reset it next session, but right now it’s on fire. Hurts to look at it.”

“Fine,” Pepper groans.

Adam cleared his throat and continued. “From the M25, came a low chanting… car horns, and engines, and sirens, and telephones, and the screaming of small children trapped by back-seat seat-belts for ever!”

Adam had a particular talent for getting a little too detailed when it came to the gruesome scenes.

“And the chanting! It was chanting—”

“Pippin!”

The Them winces at the sound of a mother’s voice drifting over the quarry. It would seem one clever parent managed to unravel their scheme.


Friday, January 12, 1990

London


“Oh, hello.”

Crowley looks up from where he’s been rummaging under the counter for something, and is greeted by the person he’d picked out at church who appeared to be the most tolerant there, as far as he could tell.

“Oh,” he says, standing up and brushing his hands off on his apron. “Hey. Sorry, wasn’t expecting anyone.”

Aziraphale looks mildly panicked. “Oh, but you are open—?”

“Yeah, yeah,” Crowley assures him. “It’s just January. Not many people are really looking to be gardening right now.”

“Ah,” Aziraphale says. “Well, unfortunately that’s what I’m here to do.”

Crowley narrows his eyes a little bit. “Oh, yeah?”

“The church has this sort of,” he waves his hand vaguely, “back garden. Er, I think it’s supposed to be a garden. Nobody ever goes back there, and it’s never looked very nice. It might have at one point, but that was long before my time. But Gabriel wants to fix it up, thinks it would be a nice project, so he sent me to get, er…”

He pulls a piece of paper out of his coat pocket and unfolds it, scanning over it. Crowley holds his hand out. “Let me see.”

Aziraphale hands it over; as Crowley’s eyes scan over the list, his lip curls down into a heavyset frown.

“What?” Aziraphale asks.

“Gabriel do a lot of gardening?” Crowley asks.

“Er, no, I don’t think so,” Aziraphale says. “Why? Has he not picked anything good?”

“Good things separate, but I wouldn’t group half of this together,” Crowley mutters. “And why does he want to buy everything as seeds? If he plants seeds now, come spring everything is going to look horrible. Especially the flowers he has picked out.”

He tuts. “How big is this garden, anyhow?”

“Oh, rather small,” Aziraphale says. “We don’t use it very often, but I think they’re interested in using it to host little events.”

“Well, it’s not going to look very good,” Crowley says. He folds the list back up and hands it back to Aziraphale. “Tell, er, Gabriel I’d like to look at it before he does anything, if he doesn’t mind.”

“Oh?” Aziraphale asks. “Are you sure?”

“Yeah, tell him I’ve got a degree in horticulture and I’m not interested in attending a church with a garden that ugly,” Crowley says.

Aziraphale blinks. “He’ll… likely point out we didn’t see you at mass last Sunday.”

“I was in Tadfield,” Crowley explains. “With my mum. Three Kings Day.”

“Oh,” Aziraphale says. “You celebrate that?”

“I do gardens,” Crowley insists. “I’ve got one in Tadfield. If he wants me to fix the church’s up come spring I’d be more than happy for the opportunity.”

Aziraphale slips the paper back in his pocket. “I’ll tell him you said that.”

“Do,” Crowley says. “See you on Sunday.”


Saturday, January 13, 1990

London


Crowley checks his watch, then gives a rather annoyed look to the snake curled around his other wrist.

“I ought to just call her,” he vents. “But then she complains and says I bother her too much. She says she’s not that old, but I just worry, you know?”

His snake flicks her tongue lazily and he sighs, resting his head against the arm of the couch. “I swear, if I settle in for Golden Girls and she calls as soon as I turn on the TV—”

His phone rings. “Ah,” he says calmly, immediately placated.

He stands up, mindful of his snake, and answers the phone. “Hallo?”

He hums. “Fine. How about you?”

Then he says, “No, nothing at all. Just me and Vesper.”

A pause. He huffs. “Vesper is my snake, mum.”

He stands quietly for several minutes, making noises of comprehension and short comments as he listens to a story of something that happened at church that day.

“No, that is funny,” he says, even though he doesn’t think it is at all. “I ran into a bloke who goes to the church I’m trying out here in London and he kinda got onto me for not attending last Sunday.”

A pause. “I know I was in Tadfield, mum, I told him that.”

Then he says, “I ran into him at the nursery. He came in looking for stuff. Unrelated, I might be fixing up their garden.”

A pause. He huffs again. “Of course I’m not going to do it for free, mum, gardening’s my job.”

A pause. “Well, yeah, I work at the nursery full time, but I do, you know, freelancing.”

He stands and listens for a long time. Finally he says, “Alright. Well, lovely talking to you mum. Uh-huh. Yeah. I love you, too. Talk to you soon. Ciao.”

He waits for her to hang up, and then sets the phone back on the receiver and gives Vesper an exasperated look. She stares back at him with blank eyes. 

“I dunno why I work myself up,” he says.

She flicks her tongue at him.

“Vesper, you get it,” he tells her, wandering back over to his couch.


Sunday, January 14, 1990

London


Crowley talks to Aziraphale after mass, who introduces him to Gabriel, who is nice, but not in a very genuine way, which makes Crowley’s skin crawl. He’s civil, though, if not a bit wary, because he has an incredibly hard time pinning down religious types, despite the fact that he is one. 

Gabriel and Aziraphale show him to the garden, which is not much of a garden at all. It looks like it could have been once, but has since been reduced to a small patch of exhausted dirt and crumbling stones. It’s not very big, and it’s certainly seen better days, but as soon as Crowley gets over the state of despair it’s in, he already has a few ideas.

“I’d be happy to redo it come spring,” he says to Gabriel. “Course, I might not be around at all times to maintain it, but I could certainly check in on Sundays.”

“Let’s see how we feel come spring,” Gabriel says with a smile. “You haven’t been attending very long, Mr. Crowley. I don’t want to turn the garden over to just anyone.”

Crowley returns his smile with what he assumes is the same amount of feigned sincerity. “Of course.”

Aziraphale hovers until Gabriel bids them both adieu in the lobby, and then he turns to Crowley. “I’m sorry about him. He can be a bit tetchy.”

“Oh, no,” Crowley says sarcastically. “I don’t mind being spoken to condescendingly at all.”

“Well, isn’t that just church?” Aziraphale asks, and immediately looks embarrassed.

Crowley laughs loudly. “You’re funny .”

“Oh, no,” Aziraphale says, blushing. “I really shouldn’t have said that. Rude.”

“No, I agree,” Crowley says. “Very sincerely. I mean, I understand it’s a preachers job to preach, but I don’t like it when I feel like I’m being sold the religion. I’m already here, aren’t I?”

Aziraphale is looking at him curiously. “Yes, I suppose so.”

“I liked the look of that garden,” Crowley says earnestly. “I’d honestly love to work on it when it warms up. All I’ve got in London right now are my house plants.”

“I’ll put a good word in with Gabriel,” Aziraphale assures him. “For now, take care of your house plants.”

“Oh, I do,” Crowley assures him with a smile.


Friday, January 19, 1990

London


The lobby of the church is empty, but Crowley got inside, which means there must be someone to talk to. It takes him some searching, but eventually he finds Aziraphale tucked away at a desk, doing what looks like paperwork.

“Hey,” he says, with the casual tone of someone who might be an acquaintance.

Aziraphale looks up at him, a bit startled. “Oh, Mr. Crowley.”

Crowley points at the paperwork. “Thought you didn’t work here?”

Aziraphale huffs. “I don’t,” he says, “although at this point I really should. What can I help you with?”

Crowley pulls a thin, manilla folder out of his bag and tosses it on the desk. “Had a slow week at work,” he says. “Drew that up. Granted, it’s from memory, so it won’t be terribly accurate, but I can adjust it.”

Aziraphale opens up the folder, revealing a meticulously drawn plan for the garden, and a sheet of notes with an estimate at the bottom. “Oh,” Aziraphale says, looking very closely at the drawing. “This is extremely well done.”

“Thanks,” Crowley says, preening a little. “You might show it to Gabriel, if he’s still unconvinced.”

“I think he’ll be convinced,” Aziraphale says thoughtfully, sliding the papers back in the folder. “Especially if you keep coming to mass. He warms up to most people.”

Crowley makes an uncertain noise. “Not many people warm up to me.”

“I’m warming up to you,” Aziraphale says helpfully. “You really didn’t have to do this, though. I wouldn’t have wanted to put you through any trouble.”

“No trouble,” Crowley says. “I like gardening. It would’ve been trouble if you’d asked me to do your taxes.”

Aziraphale grins. “Noted. Although I do feel bad, especially if this ends up being for nothing.”

“Like I said, it was a slow week at work,” Crowley promises. “I was glad for something to do. Provided the illusion of getting something done. I can only walk around the nursery checking on things that don’t need to be checked on so many times.”

“Still,” Aziraphale says, “I could buy you a drink for your trouble.”

“Not that it was trouble, but I never turn down a drink,” Crowley says, which makes Aziraphale laugh.

“Well, if you let me finish this up, I’ll let you pick the venue,” Aziraphale offers. “Besides, Gabriel might take to the idea better if he thinks we’re friends.”

“Ah,” Crowley says, “I actually, er, can’t tonight.”

“Oh, that’s alright,” Aziraphale starts to say, but despite his understanding tone, Crowley still feels the need to offer an explanation: “My snake is going to shed.”

Aziraphale stares at him. “What?”

Crowley blushes. “My, er, snake. She’s about to shed so I… wanted to… put out some… water… for her…”

Aziraphale blinks. He looks mildly horrified. “Alright.”

“But I could do tomorrow,” Crowley offers quickly. “I’ll buy you a drink to make up for the fact that I just said that.”

Aziraphale offers him a weak smile. “I’m sure that’s not necessary.”

“I’m sure it might be,” Crowley says. “I can pick you up. Call me. My number is on the— er, actually, toss me a pen.”

Aziraphale hands one to him, and Crowley grabs a blank envelope off the desk. “Are you using this for anything?” he asks, even as he writes his number on it. 

“Er, no,” Aziraphale says, taking it when Crowley hands it back. “You have two phones?”

Crowley taps the envelope with the pen. “Tele-market bastards haven’t found that one, yet.”

“Oh, lucky you,” Aziraphale says thoughtfully. “Alright, I’ll give you a call. Good luck. With your snake.”

“Oh,” Crowley says, the remnants of a blush on his cheeks. “Thanks. She tends to get finicky, so, er, yeah. Thanks.”

“Thank you,” Aziraphale says, picking the folder back up. “Show this to Gabriel first thing in the morning. So glad you stopped by.”

Crowley offers him a genuine smile and goes on his way.


Saturday, January 20, 1990

London


Around three, Crowley has payed as much attention to Vesper as he possibly can; watching his snake shed isn’t exactly the most exciting hobby. He crawls in bed and gets through about fifty pages of Casino Royale, but he has trouble actually focusing on it, so he dog-ears the page and attempts to take a nap. That, too, fails to entice him, though, and he ends up going back to watching Vesper shed.

The phone rings as he’s talking nonsense to her, and he starts, reaching for it immediately. “Hallo?”

“Mr. Crowley,” Aziraphale’s voice says through the receiver, and Crowley slumps, mildly disappointed. “I hope I’m not interrupting anything.”

“No, not at all,” Crowley says. “I’m off today. What did you have in mind in terms of a drink?”

“Well, the more I consider it, the more I think it might be a better idea to go for a bit more than a drink,” Aziraphale admits. “I’m set to be tying off some loose ends around the shop and I’m not looking to finish until about six. I didn’t want to cancel, per say, but I understand if you’re not interested.”

“Oh, no, I’m quite flexible,” Crowley says. He’s staring quite intently at Vesper, who is rubbing herself against a rock. “What sort of thing did you have in mind?”

“Well, I was going to let you pick, since I was changing things up.”

“No, you pick. I’m notorious for not being able to figure out what I’m in the mood for.”

Aziraphale makes a thoughtful noise, as though he’s pretending to think about something he’s already put a fair amount of thought into. “How do you feel about sushi?”

“I feel very positively,” Crowley assures him. “Where and when? I’ll pick you up.”

“Oh, no, I can meet you there,” Aziraphale assures him. “It’s not a long walk from my shop, and I’m not very good at recognizing cars.”

Crowley grins. “I drive a 1926 black Bentley. I’m hard to miss.”

“Oh,” Aziraphale says. “Well. Alright, but only because it looks like it’s going to rain.”

“Of course,” Crowley says, and he feels as though they’re playing a bit of a game. He grabs a pen. “Where’s your shop?”

Aziraphale tells him. Crowley writes the address on his arm because he neglected to locate a piece of paper.

“I love Soho,” Crowley says vaguely. “So much, er, history.”

“Oh, yes,” Aziraphale agrees. “Alright, well, I really should get back to it. I’ll give you a call when I finish up.”

“Lovely. Catch you soon.”

Crowley hangs up and goes back to staring at his snake, wondering vaguely how he managed to make plans with someone besides Anathema. 


Sunday, January 21, 1990

London


Crowley catches Aziraphale after mass in the lobby.

“Hey,” he says, “kept forgetting to ask, what sort of shop do you run?”

“Oh!” Aziraphale says, and he smiles proudly. “I sell secondhand books.”

“Ah,” Crowley says. “Alright. Was just wondering, it was bugging me last night.”

“Well, it’s nothing to bug yourself about,” Aziraphale assures him. “Just dusty books and an old couch in the back. You can stop by anytime, if the curiosity is really killing you.”

“I might,” Crowley says. “I mean, the curiosity isn’t killing me that much, but I do like books.”

“Oh, what’s your favorite?” Aziraphale asks cheerfully.

“Casino Royale.”

“Oh, the James Bond book?”

“Yeah.”

“I feel like I must have a copy or two laying around the shop. I don’t really keep them alphabetized, I sort of just put books where I have shelf space.”

“Sounds beautifully disorganized,” Crowley says with a smile. “I might just have to stop by and see.”

“Feel free!” Aziraphale says. “Although my hours are quite odd, I’m afraid. If it’s closed, I’m probably here.”

“Gotcha,” Crowley says. “Alright, I’ve got to get to work, but I’ll pop by sometime. Hunt down that secondhand copy of Casino Royale.”

“Looking forward to it,” Aziraphale says, returning his smile.


Friday, January 26, 1990

London


“I’m stepping out for a smoke.”

Dagon looks up from the paperwork she’s focused on and checks her watch. “That’s your second one in an hour.”

“Oh, excuse me,” Crowley says. “Would you rather I attended to our numerous customers who are just flocking in, in this beautiful month of January? Perfect time to start a garden, I’d say.”

Dagon glares at him.

Crowley retreats slightly. “It’s my second in an hour and a half.”


Saturday, January 27, 1990

Soho, London


Work is just as lively as the day previous, in that it isn’t at all, so Crowley dips into Soho on his way home to see if he can find a sliver of a good mood. Aziraphale’s book shop is open, and the jingling of the bell when he opens the door is inviting. The shop is lit with warm lighting, excessively dusty and rustic, with every available surface laden with books. The front desk is abandoned, no sign of Aziraphale, but there’s a couple curled up on an ancient looking couch: a young woman focused intensely on an old novel, wearing pants with a horribly tacky fruit pattern, and a young man sitting quietly near her, clad in dark jeans and a leather jacket. 

Crowley bites the inside of his cheek and approaches them. “Hallo.”

The two look up at him; the woman immediately shuts her book, setting it haphazardly in her lap. “Hi,” she says, in a quiet voice that is somehow uncharacteristic for their setting. The man gives her an odd look.

“Is the owner around?” Crowley asks, and the man adopts a sappy expression, grinning widely.

“Aziraphale?” he asks, and Crowley nods. “He’s in the back.”

“Cool,” Crowley says, wandering away from them. “Thanks.”

“No problem!” the woman calls after him, then seems to immediately regret it when she grabs her book and buries her face in it. The man’s quiet laugher echoes through the store.

The backroom is obvious, the door wide open and inviting. Aziraphale is sitting on a couch that looks even older and more worn than the one out in the shop, reading through an old looking novel. Crowley raps lightly on the door.

Aziraphale looks up. “Oh, Mr. Crowley,” he says with a smile. He bookmarks the novel and holds it up. “I found one of my Casino Royale ’s.”

“Nice,” Crowley says awkwardly. “Er, you have customers out there.”

“The pair on the couch?” 

Crowley nods.

“Oh, they’ll sit there for hours, they’re fine,” Aziraphale says; he sets the novel down and stands, stretching. Crowley looks away. “She likes to come in and read my Wilde stuff.”

“Wild stuff?” Crowley asks, his eyebrows raised.

“Oscar Wilde,” Aziraphale adds quickly. “No, I don’t… I don’t sell those kinds of books.”

“Damn, that’s what I came in looking for,” Crowley says, and Aziraphale chuckles.

He checks the clock. “Ah, I should probably shoo them off, soon. About time to close up.”

“Well, I just wanted to pop by for a look around,” Crowley says. “I’ve got a friend who owns a shop around the corner.”

“Oh, what do they sell?” Aziraphale asks conversationally.

“She’s in the occult business,” Crowley says lightly. “She’s a witch.”

Aziraphale blinks. “A witch?”

“Yeah,” Crowley says. “But she sells, you know, other stuff.”

There’s a pause.

“Candles,” Crowley offers lamely.

“How interesting,” Aziraphale says tightly.

“She’s very nice,” Crowley assures him. “We play D&D together. Her boyfriend DMs. Er, how are you liking Casino Royale?”

“Oh, it’s lovely,” Aziraphale says quickly, thankful for the change in subject. “I can see why you like it. It certainly fits your aesthetic.”

Crowley preens a bit. “Thanks.”

Aziraphale checks the clock again. “Alright, I’m going to scare them off.”

Crowley nods. “I’ll be on my way, then.”

“Oh, no, you’re fine,” Aziraphale assures him. “You’re very fun to talk to. Those two out there, the young lady just reads and the young man just likes to lounge.”

Crowley makes a thoughtful noise, following him back out into the shop. Upon being asked to leave, the young lady apologizes upwards of twenty times within the span of two minutes, and her friend simply stands by the door waiting for her to put her book away and put her coat on.

“Nice night,” he says idly, smiling shyly at Aziraphale.

Crowley decides to test something and answers first. “Sure is.”

The young man’s shoulders tense a bit, and he gives Crowley an odd look; he flashes him a smile in return. Once they’re gone, Aziraphale flips the shops sign to closed and then gets distracted fussing with the books facing the window. Crowley perches behind the front counter, on the flimsy stool there, and taps his fingers against the counter. 

He decides to dip his toe in. “I think he fancies you.”

“Huh?” Aziraphale asks, turning to look at him. He only looks mildly startled.

“Said I think he fancies you,” Crowley repeats, doing his best to keep the edge of nervousness out of his tone.

“Oh, no,” Aziraphale says quickly. “No, I— I think those two are together, he couldn’t possibly.”

“They weren’t holding hands,” Crowley offers. “And he seemed quite enthusiastic when I asked about you. Dunno. Just got that vibe.”

“No, I don’t think so,” Aziraphale says, a bit rushed. He’s gone back to fussing with the books set on the table nearest to him, although there’s nothing really wrong with them. He just seems eager to avoid eye contact.

Crowley taps his index finger on the counter once, twice. “Would that be so bad, though?”

Aziraphale looks back at him. “I’m sorry?”

“Would he be allowed to come back?” Crowley asks, fighting the nervous edge with extreme difficulty. “If he asked you out, I mean?”

Aziraphale is quite flustered now, his face red. He seems to be at a loss for words. Despite his nerves, Crowley refuses to break eye contact with him.

Finally, Aziraphale manages. “I— of course, all are welcome. Except, you know… fascists.”

Crowley cracks a smile.

“But I don’t know if he would want to come back,” Aziraphale continues. “It would be dreadfully awkward, seeing as I would have to say no. Because I’m not, er…”

“Gay?” Crowley offers. Aziraphale winces at the word.

“Yes,” he says, then immediately backtracks. “I— I mean no. I’m not… that.”

Crowley hums. In for a penny, in for a pound. “I am.”

Aziraphale looks mildly startled. “Oh?”

“S’why I was having to look around for a church,” Crowley explains, and the nerves have crept into the edges of his voice but he’s doing his best to quell them. “It’s quite difficult to find a Catholic church that doesn’t preach homophobia. Or transphobia, for that matter. But I like ours. Nobody’s said anything.”

“Yet,” Aziraphale says quietly.

Crowley’s heart crawls up into his throat. “Are you about to?”

Aziraphale shakes his head. “I just… I would be wary to share details with anyone else, if I were you. Especially Gabriel, if you want that garden.”

“Noted.”

Aziraphale makes a pensive noise, fidgeting awkwardly with his books. “Er, do you like wine?”

Crowley perks up a little bit. “I love wine.”

Aziraphale smiles, and it’s tight, but he’s clearly making an attempt. “What’s your favorite?”

Crowley hesitates. “White?”

Aziraphale snickers, and Crowley blushes, defensive. “Sorry, I’m not exactly a connoisseur. I just like to drink it.”

“No, you’re fine,” Aziraphale says, and his smile is much more relaxed now. “Do you like Chardonnay?”

Crowley narrows his eyes. “Maybe.”

“Well I have a 1974 that’s collecting dust, and truthfully, I don’t like to drink alone.”

Crowley grins wickedly. “Well, I never turn down a drink.”


Sunday, January 28, 1990

London


“Why did it take you four hours to get home from church?”

Crowley starts as soon as he opens the door to his flat, nearly having a heart attack as someone tries to start a conversation with him from inside. Anathema is stood just past the door, her arms crossed, her gaze scrutinizing. 

Crowley, trying to act as though he didn’t just react to being frightened by putting a hand over his heart like a ninety year old woman, frowns. “I gave you that key for emergencies.”

“You have not bothered me since our last session,” Anathema says as Crowley shuts the door behind him. “You haven’t called. You haven’t come in the shop. You haven’t come by our apartment. You can’t expect me to believe you’re actually content only seeing me once a month. I mean, come on, I’m enamoring.”

Crowley gives her a look. “I’m gay.”

“You’re deflecting.”

“I’ve been busy.”

“You’re never busy! Especially during the winter! You don’t have a garden to traumatize! Who are you and what have you done with Anthony?”

Crowley sets his keys and a book down on his coffee table, and Anathema immediately grabs it. “You Only Live Twice,” she reads, then squints at him. “You own a copy of this already.”

“Not with that cover,” Crowley points out lamely.

“Where did you get this?” Anathema asks, holding it up.

“You’re insufferable, you know that?” Crowley asks, snatching it out of her hand. “I have a life outside of you.”

“Yeah, in Tadfield, with your mum. When you’re in London, though, I’m your only friend.”

“Newt’s my friend.”

“Newt and I are a package deal.”

“Insufferable!” Crowley cries, tossing the book back down on the coffee table. “Maybe I have other friends!”

Anathema gives him a look. “It would be the first I’ve heard of such a thing.”

Crowley crosses his arms. “Well, I do.”

“Oh, you do?” Anathema asks, mirroring his pose. “What’s their name?”

“Aziraphale. He goes to my church.”

“Aziraphale,” Anathema says, testing the name’s weight on her tongue. “What’s he like?”

“Kinda dorky,” Crowley admits.

“Oh, so you have a lot on common.”

Crowley shoves her. “Insufferable.”

“Okay, so you have a ‘friend,’” Anathema says, applying air quotes around friend. “Why are you spending four hours with him?”

“Need I remind you how many times we’ve sat in my car for upwards of that amount of time?” Crowley asks.

“That’s different,” Anathema says flippantly. “This is a guy. Do you like him?”

Crowley frowns. “He goes to my church.”

“Do you like him?” Anathema insists.

“I’ve known him for less than a month,” Crowley says slowly. “And, again, he goes to my church.”

“Just because he’s Catholic doesn’t mean he’s homophobic,” Anathema says.

Crowley makes a doubtful noise. Anathema continues. “It doesn’t! You’re Catholic.”

Crowley makes a doubtful noise. “I’m having trouble pinning him. I don’t think he’s homophobic, but, you know…”

Anathema purses her lips. “Still. You wouldn’t be talking to him if you weren’t picking up on something.”

“That’s not true,” Crowley says.

Anathema gives him a look. “Who started the first conversation?”

“Me.”

“Oh, come on,” Anathema groans. “You’ve got to be picking up on something. You started a conversation with him at church.”

“He looked most tolerant!” Crowley insists.

“Because you think he’s queer!” Anathema tacks on. “Anthony, you talk to three people on a regular basis: me, Newt, and your mum.”

“Two out of those three people are straight,” Crowley points out. “Statistically, I speak to straight people most often.”

“There must be something.”

“I worked it into a conversation, Anathema! He said he’s not gay!”

She gives him a Look. Capital L. 

He hesitates. “…His nails are manicured.”

“There it is,” Anathema says proudly.

“But he said he’s not gay,” Crowley insists. “I mean, well… I guess that could always be the being raised Catholic talking…”

Anathema hums. “You know what I love?”

Crowley sighs. “Being raised—”

“—raised a witch, yeah,” Anathema finishes for him. “So, do you like him?”

Crowley frowns. “Not my type.”

“You’re such a liar, he gave you a James Bond book,” Anathema says. “Does he dress all faux punk like you?”

“It’s not faux punk, it’s punk!” Crowley exclaims. “And no. He wears almost exclusively button ups and sweater vests. He owns a bloody bookshop.”

Anathema coos. “He’s perfect for you.”

“I don’t like him!” Crowley snaps. “I’ve known him a month! Less than, even!”

“I knew Newt for an hour,” Anathema reminds him.

“And now you’ve been in a wonderfully committed relationship for two years, I’m very happy for you,” Crowley says dryly.

“And I’d appreciate if you would hurry up and do the same,” Anathema says. “Newt and I need someone to double date with.”

“Double date with the Sergeant,” Crowley snickers. 

Anathema whacks his shoulder. “He’s Newt’s boss!”

“So?”

“Would you go on a double date with Dagon?”

Crowley’s amusement shrivels up and dies. “Point taken,” he says. “But it doesn’t really matter. You know I don’t mind third wheeling. You’re both my friends.”

“I mind,” Anathema says. “You’re twenty-nine and you’ve never been in a serious relationship.”

“Thanks,” Crowley says sarcastically.

“It’s true.”

“Why does that bother you?”

“Because you bounce between us and Tadfield! All you focus on are our campaigns, and your gardening, and your mum.”

“Those are good things to focus on.”

“You’re lonely.”

“I am not.”

“Anthony,” Anathema says, suddenly not playful at all and instead extremely serious. She grabs his shoulders, looking at him earnestly. “I say this in complete seriousness. You would benefit from a thorough shag.”

“Oh, fuck off,” Crowley says, pushing her hands off. “Here I thought you were going to be serious for two minutes.”

“I’ll ask once more,” Anathema says. “Do you like him?”

“I do not,” Crowley says honestly. “He’s nice, but he’s really not my type.”

“Is he not your type?” Anathema asks. “Or is he not who you think your type should be?”

Crowley sniffs indignantly. “I don’t like him.”

Chapter Text

Friday, February 2, 1990

Second Session

London


Anathema is a bit frazzled when she opens the door. “You’re early.”

Crowley narrows his eyes. “Last time you berated me for being late.”

“Last time you brought wine.”

“This time I brought wine.”

They squint at each other. 

“If you must know,” Anathema groans, feigning annoyance, “I was counting on you being late. Newt and I were—”

“I just decided I don’t need to know!” Crowley exclaims, shoving the bottle of wine into her hands. 

She steps aside to let him in. “What year is this?”

“Ugh, what are you, a sommelier?” Crowley asks, stepping inside and shrugging his coat off. “Aziraphale is so annoying about that, he’s always like, this is a 1976 whatever the fúck, and I’m like, cool, let’s get drunk.”

Anathema snickers. “Idiot.”

“Anyways, let’s get drunk,” Crowley says, stepping further into the flat.

“We can get drunk after the first battle,” Newt says vaguely from the kitchen. “Wine glasses?”

“Eh, grab mugs,” Anathema says. She turns to Crowley. “By the way, you’re hosting the next session.”

“Whatever you say,” Crowley says, sliding into his usual seat at the table. “But then you have to bring the wine.”

“Why doesn’t Aziraphale bring the wine?” Anathema asks, sitting down across from him. “Since he seems so fond of it.”

“Aziraphale doesn’t play D&D,” Crowley says matter-of-factly. 

“Who?” Newt asks, emerging from the kitchen with proper glasses. He sets them down on the table gently then slides into his chair, passing the corkscrew to Anathema.

“Would it be whom?” Anathema asks, grabbing the wine bottle and setting to work it open.

“It really doesn’t matter,” Crowley offers.

“Who’s Aziraphale?” Newt repeats.

“Anthony’s boyfriend.”

“She’s teasing. He’s not my boyfriend. He goes to my church.”

“Huh,” Newt says. “Okay. You could invite him to the next session. We could use another player.”

“You’d have to rewrite your campaign, hon,” Anathema points out, finally working the wine open.

“Not by much,” Newt says, flipping his notebook open. “It’s better suited for three people, anyway.”

“He doesn’t play,” Crowley says, taking his now filled glass from Anathema.

“Eh, you taught those kids from Tadfield what D&D was,” Newt recalls. 

“They don’t play well,” Crowley counters, taking a much needed sip.

“They’re eleven,” Anathema offers thoughtfully, passing Newt his glass.

“You said we had a battle?” Crowley asks.

“Oh, yes,” Newt says, looking down at his notes. “Okay, so we left off in the marsh…”

They play considerably later than they did during their last session, both because Crowley has no holy days on his calendar for the remaining weekend, and because Anathema manages to keep the three of them well entertained once they finish the wine with a bottle of bourbon she miraculously produces.

“Oh, goodness,” Newt says, his face flushed. He grins at Anathema, who winks at him, and he manages to blush harder. “I think we should stop for the evening.”

“Sseconded,” Crowley manages.

“Ooh, the lisp makes itself known,” Anathema coos.

“Shut it,” Crowley says, with great effort.

“We’re becoming incoherent,” Newt chuckles. “This campaign is going to be a disaster if we keep playing like this.”

“Perfect,” Anathema says warmly. “We’ll start every session not knowing how the last one ended.”

Crowley stands and stretches, and Anathema whistles. “Oh, shut it,” he hisses, but he can’t keep the smile off his face. “I ought to head home.”

Anathema adopts a suddenly solemn expression. “Oh, no, you’re not driving,” she says.

“Seconded,” Newt offers.

“Oh, pleasse,” Crowley insists. “I’m fine.”

“The lisp suggests otherwise,” Anathema says, standing. She sways a bit, but recovers quick enough. “If you can’t control your lisp, you can’t control a car.”

“I’m fine,” Crowley protests; Anathema reaches over and pushes his shoulder, and he stumbles backwards, barely managing to catch himself. “That doe— that doessn’t count.”

Anathema grabs him by his elbows and pushes him down onto the couch. “Sleep, my child.”

“I’m older than you,” Crowley mutters, trying to stand back up. “I—”

“No,” Anathema insists, pushing him back down.

“I need a ssmoke!” Crowley protests, laughing as he stands back up.

Anathema huffs. “Give me you keys.”

“Ssorry?”

“Your keysssssssssss,” Anathema hisses teasingly; Newt laughs loudly.

Crowley digs his keys out of his coat pocket with minimal trouble and drops them into her expectant hands. “Alright,” she says, pocketing them. “Go have your cigarette.”

“Yess ma’am,” Crowley grumbles. He makes his way to the door, does his best to compose himself and look sober, and slips out into the hallway.

The walk to the lift is uneventful enough. So is the lift. In fact, he makes it all the way out the building and almost finishes his cigarette with no problems at all, when he’s suddenly approached by Ms. Potts.

“Good evening, Anthony,” she says cheerfully, and he jumps, having not seen her walk up.

“Oh, er,” he struggles to remember how to act sober. “Yeah.”

She gives him an odd look. “Bit late to be out for a smoke, wouldn’t you say?”

“Er, well,” he says, looking intensely at his cigarette. “You know. When the nicotine callss.”

He blushes deeply, both on account of letting his lisp slip in front of someone who isn’t Anathema, and because he’s always prided himself on not being outright addicted to smoking.*

*Crowley is addicted to smoking.

“Oh, I know,” Ms. Potts says with a tight smile. “Mr. Shadwell’s a smoker himself.”

Crowley takes a drag of the cigarette. “I wouldn’t call mysself a ssmoker.”

She casts him an odd look. “Are you alright?”

“Fine,” Crowley mutters, taking another drag.

“Oi,” Shadwell says, opening the door of the lobby. “Are ye goin’ to converse with th’ nancy boy all night?”

Ms. Potts huffs, as though mildly inconvenienced. “Won’t you come in, Anthony? It’s late. You’ll catch your death.”

Crowley opens his mouth to explain that he’d like to finish his cigarette, but then he looks and discovers he has one drag left, maybe two if he doesn’t inhale too deeply. He stands with his mouth agape for a moment, then abruptly shuts it and flicks the cigarette into the tray atop the trashcan. He holds the door open for Ms. Potts and then follows her into the lobby.

“Visiting the Private again?” Ms. Potts asks, punching the button for the lift.

Crowley’s eyes go slightly wide. “What?”

“Private Pulsifer?”

“Oh,” Crowley says, relaxing as he realizes she wasn’t making an innuendo. “No.”

The two of them look at him a bit oddly. Crowley blinks, then realizes what he just said. “I mean yess! Pri— Private Pulssifer. And Mss. Devicce. An— Anathema.”

Ms. Potts grins knowingly. “Mr. Crowley, are you inebriated?”

“I think I should take the sstairs,” Crowley says suddenly, but he speaks too quickly and the words come out rather slurred, prompting Ms. Potts to giggle. He takes a step back. “You two have a nicce night, then.”

“You as well, Anthony!” Ms. Potts giggles as she follows Sergeant Shadwell onto the lift.


Saturday, February 3, 1990

London


“Ah, fuck…”

“Ooh, look who’s up,” Anathema says cheerfully from the kitchen. Crowley groans loudly and rolls over on the couch, trying to hide from the light streaming in through the window.

“London picked a bad morning to be sunny,” Newt says empathetically. “Do you want coffee?”

“Pleasse,” Crowley mutters, his voice muffled.

“Oh, walk it off, you big baby,” Anathema says. “I’ve seen you do it plenty of times before.”

“Oh, well excusse me, ssome of uss aren’t twenty three,” Crowley snaps, with a great deal of effort.

Anathema smiles into her mug. “Your lisp is showing.”

“Fuck you.”


Sunday, February 4, 1990

London


Crowley’s answering machine still has no new messages for him, so he finally bites the bullet and makes the call himself. It takes three tries before she finally picks up.

“Christ, Anthony,” Rose says when she answers the phone, which means she must be more than a little annoyed. “Is everything alright?”

Crowley sinks into his chair a little sheepishly. “Yeah,” he says. “Everything’s fine.”

“Then why the sudden urgency?” Rose demands.

“I just… hadn’t heard from you,” Crowley says. “I worry. You know I worry.”

“Anthony,” Rose says sternly. “I’m sixty-four years old, I’m not dying. I’m perfectly capable of taking care of myself. You don’t need to check in on me just because you feel like you have to.”

“I don’t check in because I feel like I have to,” Crowley insists, but he neglects to tack on the rest of his thought. Sometimes I simply miss you.

“I’m fine, Anthony,” Rose says, her voice softening a little bit. “I’m sure there are plenty of things to occupy yourself with in London. Far more than there are here.”

“Maybe you could come to visit,” Crowley says hopefully. “I could show you my apartment. My church. I’d like to—”

“You know I don’t like the city,” Rose cuts him off; she’s about to continue, when she breaks off into a small coughing fit. Crowley waits for her to finish; it takes her several moments.

“Are you alright?” he asks, and she clears her throat.

“Fine,” she says. “Caught a cough, is all. Dreadful. It gets too cold, nowadays.”

“Yeah,” Crowley says absently. “Are you sure you’re alright? You don’t sound too good.”

“I’m fine, Anthony,” Rose says sternly. “You need to get that anxiety of yours under control.”

“I just—”

“Worry, yes, I know, it’s excessive. What do you do in your free time, Anthony? Because it’s not keeping you very occupied.”

Crowley sighs. “Do you want me to come down for Ash Wednesday?”

“If you’re off work.” 

“I can get off.”

“Don’t trouble yourself. Might do you good to show up to your own church on a Holy Day. That does remind me, though. What are you planning to give up for Lent?” 

Crowley winces a little bit. “Hadn’t thought about it, if I’m being honest.”

Rose hums. “Well, you should decide soon. I’m doing wine again.”

“Right,” Crowley says. “I’ll think about it. I’ll have something picked out before then, for sure.”

“Uh-huh,” Rose says, recalling to herself last year when he’d procrastinated deciding on something and then had gotten flustered the day of and informed her he had decided to give up cheese. 

“I’ve got to let you go, now, hon,” she continues. “I’m heading down the way to help Brian’s mum out with something. You know his birthday is just next weekend?”

“Let him know I said happy birthday, then,” Crowley says. “Nine?”

“Eleven,” Rose says, amused.

“Oh,” Crowley says, blushing even though no one is there. “My bad. Alright, have fun. Don’t overdo it.”

“I won’t,” Rose says, annoyed. “Love you.”

“Love you, too,” Crowley says, and has no time to add on any sort of afterthought, because she’s already hung up.


Friday, February 9, 1990

Soho, London


“Have you been thinking about what you’re going to give up for Lent?”

Crowley makes a pensive noise into his wine glass. “You know you’re the second person to ask me that this week.”

Aziraphale raises his eyebrows. “Is that so?”

Crowley hums affirmative. “You and my mum must be conspiring.”

“I assure you, I’ve never met her,” Aziraphale says with a smile. “Still, though, thoughts?”

“Nothing as of yet,” Crowley says honestly. “I have a bad habit of picking something last minute.”

“Do you usually stick with it?” Aziraphale asks.

“Usually,” Crowley says, then takes a sip. “When it’s achievable.”

Aziraphale gives him a curious look, and Crowley shrugs, looking down. “Last year I picked late. Panicked. Told my mum I was giving up cheese.”

Aziraphale laughs, loudly, and Crowley blushes. “Alright, it’s not that funny.”

“It’s a little funny,” Aziraphale says. “I always give up wine.”

“Oh, that must be tricky,” Crowley teases.

“Oh, no,” Aziraphale says. “Usually I just collect. I don’t like to drink alone, so I don’t often. So, I suppose you’ll have to stop coming around.”

Crowley chuckles. Thinks for a moment. “You said you give up wine?”

“Yes.”

“Is champagne wine?”

Aziraphale gives him a look. “Now, don’t go trying to cheat.”

“I’m not,” Crowley insists. “Is it?”

“It’s a sparkling wine, yes,” Aziraphale says. “It counts.”

“Is port wine?”

“Yes.”

“Sherry?”

“Yes.”

Crowley thinks for another long moment. “I drink bourbon sometimes.”

“Oh, no,” Aziraphale says, grimacing. “I’ll happily abstain from that any day.”

“My mum used to get these sparkling juice things for New Year’s,” Crowley says helpfully. “Non-alcoholic. Sparkling cider kind of thing.”

“Yes, a sparkling juice thing might do the trick,” Aziraphale says.

Crowley narrows his eyes. “Are you teasing?”

“Not at all.”

“Oh,” Crowley says; he looks down at his wine, staring into the glass. “Say, has that bloke been back around?”

“Which?” Aziraphale asks cheerfully.

“Oh, came in that one day,” Crowley says vaguely, his memory failing him. “With that girl. Ugly fruit pants. Leather jacket.”

“She was wearing fruit pants and a leather jacket?” Aziraphale asks, startled.

“No, no, she was wearing the pants, he was wearing the jacket,” Crowley says. He snaps his fingers. “The bloke who fancies you.”

Aziraphale blushes. “Oh, him,” he says, then manages to blush even harder. “I mean— no, he doesn’t fancy me, he, er, no. I mean, he’s been back by, yes. The two of them have. They always come in together.”

“Do they?” Crowley asks.

“Yes,” Aziraphale says certainly. “I do believe they’re a couple.”

Crowley hums doubtfully. “Dunno. I got very queer vibes from them.”

Aziraphale starts a little bit, and Crowley isn’t sure if it’s the glass of wine he’s just about finished, but his nerves don’t jump at all. “Isn’t that, er, a bad word?”

Crowley shrugs. “To some.”

Crowley finishes his wine, then sets the empty glass on the table in front of him. He glances at Aziraphale, who is staring at his wine like he’s trying very hard not to think about something. Crowley is just buzzed enough to decide getting philosophical might be a good idea.*

*It never is.

“I don’t mind calling myself queer,” he says, sitting back. Aziraphale turns his attention to him, his eyes wide. “Some people mind, but I really don’t. It’s sort of being reclaimed, I suppose. Now, I wouldn’t go around calling myself a f—”

Aziraphale makes an alarmed noise.

“— mind you, I definitely don’t like being called that. But it’s not unheard of. Newt’s boss calls me a nancy boy every time he sees me, and I’ve agreed with him a few times. There’s very few things I actually do mind being called. Anathema doesn’t mind being called queer, either. It’s just an easy identity, if you prefer it.”

Aziraphale blinks at him, sitting stiffly. He opens his mouth, closes it, then finally decides to go ahead and ask his question. “But, er, why don’t you just call yourself…?”

“Gay?” Crowley finishes for him, and Aziraphale winces and nods. Crowley frowns at him. “S’not a dirty word. You can say it.”

“Why don’t you just call yourself gay, then?” Aziraphale asks, his words rushed.

“Well, I do,” Crowley says, sitting up and bracing himself for the next part of his sentence, “but that doesn’t really cover everything. S’easier to say ‘I’m queer’ than it is to say ‘I’m gay and trans,’ you know?”

Aziraphale blinks at him. “You’re… er… trans?”

“Mhm,” Crowley says, not trusting himself with anything more complex.

Aziraphale nods slightly, looking away. “I had no idea.”

Crowley doesn’t take his eyes off him. “Problem?”

“No,” Aziraphale says instinctively, then winces and tries to backpedal. “I mean— well— I…”

He hesitates. “I don’t mean to offend you—”

“Uh-huh,” Crowley says dryly, recognizing that he’s about to get offended.

“— it’s just that I don’t really… think… see, I just don’t think that God makes mistakes, is all.”

Crowley nods, considering this response. “Then the Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth,” he says, watching Aziraphale the entire time, “and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. And the Lord was sorry that He had made man on the earth, and He was grieved in His heart. So the Lord said, ‘I will destroy man whom I have created from the face of the earth, both man and beast, creeping thing and birds of the air, for I am sorry that I have made them.’”

Aziraphale stares at him. “Did you just quote—?”

“Genesis, yes,” Crowley says lazily. “God does regret, therefore He can make mistakes.”

Aziraphale blinks. “I… suppose—”

“But I digress,” Crowley says, digging his heels into philosophy and dragging Aziraphale along for the ride. “I do agree. He doesn’t tend to make mistakes, that’s the only example in the Bible where He apologizes, so He wouldn’t go around making them every day. Here’s the way I look at it: God makes every soul, right?”

Aziraphale doesn’t answer, so Crowley prompts him. “Right?”

“Right.” Aziraphale says. “Right, right, that’s— right.”

“Right,” Crowley says, “So every soul is made by His hand, so if He makes every soul, every soul begins perfect. We’re not born knowing sin, you know?”

“Sure,” Aziraphale says, listening intently.

“So He makes every soul perfect, free of sin, exactly as He intended them to be,” Crowley continues. “But He doesn’t make every body.”

Aziraphale frowns. “He does make everybody.”

“No, no, every body, two words,” Crowley says. “He makes every soul , but every Earthly body is made on Earth. He doesn’t necessarily have a hand in that, He let’s that handle itself. God doesn’t control everything that’s going on down here, otherwise everything wouldn’t be… you know, like that. Things would just be perfect all the time. We’d just be in Eden. Right?”

“Right,” Aziraphale says, enthralled.

“So, I think,” Crowley says, “not every Earthly body is perfect. Obviously. But every soul is perfect, and knows who they are, even if the body isn’t quite right, you know? I was a man when He made me, and I’ll be a man when I meet Him again, and I’m a man on Earth. I know that, He knows that. Dunno. S’just my two cents.”

Aziraphale blinks. He blinks several times. He stares at Crowley for a long time, then looks into his wine glass for just as long. Finally, he tips his glass, drinks what little remains, sets it on the table, and says, “I agree.”

Crowley raises his eyebrows, allowing himself to feel shocked. “You do?”

“Yes,” Aziraphale says. “I… yes. I agree. I mean, I felt… bad. I mean— how do I articulate this? That makes… an awful lot of sense to me. Like I’ve always sort of agreed, I was just unsure of how to phrase it. I don’t… enjoy condemning people. I’d like to just leave most people to it, mind my own business. I think I come across as a bit pretentious from time to time—”

“You do,” Crowley assures him.

Aziraphale offers him a nervous smile. “Well, I don’t necessarily mean to. I just… I very much believe in ineffability. God’s plan, and all that. But, I like your philosophies. I feel as though they… explain that ineffability. In relation to, er, being… well, you know. You’re very fun to talk to, Mr. Crowley.”

Crowley beams, the rest of his anxiety dissolving at Aziraphale’s agreement. “Why, thank you. I minored in theology, so I have many opinions on Catholicism. My mum models them for me.”

“Oh, you minored in theology?” Aziraphale asks. “Coupled with your, er, plant… degree?”

“Horticulture,” Crowley supplies. “And yes. Half my professors hated me and the other half loved me. All of them were a bit terrified of me for just a minute. None of them quite knew what to expect out of a Catholic school expellee.”

Aziraphale raises his eyebrows. “You were expelled from Catholic school?”

“Much to my mother’s chagrin,” Crowley says. “Yes, I was.”

“Well, what for?” Aziraphale insists. “You can’t just tell me that and then not elaborate.”

“If I’m going to elaborate, I think you ought to pour me another glass of wine,” Crowley says, grinning cheekily.

“Oh, of course,” Aziraphale says; he grabs the bottle. “Speak while I pour. I’m enthralled.”

“It’s not terribly interesting, I assure you,” Crowley says with a lazy smile. “I had these friends— well, I don’t know if I’d call them friends. More acquaintances, really. Thank you,” he takes the now refilled wine glass from Aziraphale gratefully and takes a sip. “Anyways, these, er acquaintances. Peers of mine, we all went to the same school, and we had kind of this… rebellious phase.”

“As many teenagers attending Catholic school do,” Aziraphale says lightly.

“Oh, did you?” Crowley asks.

“No, not quite,” Aziraphale assures him. “Thought about it. Didn’t seem worth the trouble. What form did your rebellion take?”

“Satanism,” Crowley says, and Aziraphale chokes on the sip he was taking.

“Satanism?” he asks, hoping he heard wrong.

“Yes, I dabbled in a little worship of the Dark Lord,” Crowley says regretfully. “It’s one of the few Commandments I’ve broken.”

“Taking the Lord’s name in vain?” Aziraphale guesses.

“No, I killed a man,” Crowley says stoically.

Aziraphale laughs, and then quickly falls silent when Crowley doesn’t even smile. He looks distressed for a moment, trying to gauge whether or not Crowley is joking, when he grins. “I’m fucking with you, yeah, taking the Lord’s name in vain. Though that’s a whole other philosophical discussion. No, yeah, I pledged allegiance to Satan for, like, a month when I was seventeen.”

“Got expelled for it?” Aziraphale asks.

“Sort of?” Crowley says; he takes another sip of the wine. “Well, okay, the actual thing we got expelled for was stealing communion wine—”

“You did not,” Aziraphale says, grinning.

“I did, first time I ever got drunk,” Crowley says proudly. “But I fessed up to the Satanism stuff in the midst of getting in trouble for that.”

He neglects to mention how he had started sobbing upon having to tell his mother he had devoted his soul to Satan on a whim, prompted completely by the look on her face.

“I mean, I apologized,” Crowley adds. “You know, to Him.” He points up. 

“I would have assumed, seeing as we go to church together,” Aziraphale says. “That’s very interesting. You are a colorful character.”

“Thank you, I think?” Crowley says with a smile.


Saturday, February 10, 1990

Soho, London


“Hey, I’m closing!” Anathema shouts when she hears the bell above her shop door jingle.

“It’s just me!” Crowley shouts, wiping his feet on the matt and wandering further inside. 

“I don’t care! I’m closing!” Anathema argues from somewhere he can’t see her. 

He rolls his eyes. “Honestly, if you can’t give your best friend special privileges, what’s the point of opening a shop?”

“Money, maybe?” Anathema says, popping up from behind the counter and startling him. “We all live in the same capitalist hell.”

“That we do,” Crowley says. “I’m just popping in for a candle. The one I keep on my nightstand—”

“I don’t need to hear the whole story,” Anathema says, resting her chin on her hand. “Pick a candle and fuck off.”

“You know the sign on your door says you close at nine, and it’s actually only ten-till,” Crowley snarks. “I could’ve gone to Tesco.”

Anathema stares him down. “Are you going to pick out a candle or are you just going to stand there making snide comments?”

“Picking a candle, picking a candle,” Crowley relents, wandering to the back wall. “What does the chef recommend?”

“I recommend you buy two Vesper’s and get out,” Anathema says. “I do have a boyfriend to get home to.”

“Snappy,” Crowley comments, grabbing two of the candles he was going to get anyway off the shelf. 

“You know Newt doesn’t like it when people aren’t on time,” Anathema says, not as harsh. 

Crowley sets the candles down on the counter and leans on his elbows. “Anathema?” he asks, batting his eyelashes at her.

“Ugh.”

“Did you name this candle after my snake?”

“Everyday I regret it,” she says bitterly, grabbing the candles and tossing them into a bag. 

She’s in the process of ringing him up, but she stops when she notices him eyeing the jewelry display on the side of the counter. “Dude.”

“What? I’m just looking,” Crowley says, in a way that hints that he’s thinking of doing more than just looking.

“I’m not letting you buy earrings from me,” she says, putting a hand protectively on the display. “You’re twenty-nine. Your piercings aren’t cool anymore.”

“They’re cool,” Crowley says, defensive. 

“Anthony,” Anathema says, “nothing you do in college is cool once you’re pushing thirty.”

“It’s cool if I had to pierce cartilage for it,” Crowley says firmly, pointing to his ear. “I’m not taking them out.”

“Well, I’m not going to sell you earrings,” Anathema. “I’m about to close, I’m selling you candles, that’s all.”

Crowley picks a piercing off the display and sets it on the counter; it’s snake themed. “You’re gonna sell me this,” he says with a smile. “Otherwise I’m gonna go to that occult store around the block that has the g slur in their name and I’m going to buy earrings from them.”

Anathema narrows her eyes. “You wouldn’t.”

“I would,” Crowley says, “you know I would.”

She glares at him, then swipes the earring off the counter and shoves it in his bag. “You’re a prick.”

“Yes, I know,” Crowley sighs. 


Sunday, February 11, 1990

London


Crowley checks his watch, and then slithers out from behind the counter at the nursery to make his final round before he closes up. He grabs his plant mister off the shelf and begins a slow crawl up and down the aisles, taking careful care to inspect each plant. As long as he makes sure Dagon isn’t watching him, he leans in close and makes threats when he sees fit. There isn’t much blooming this time of year, but there are a few plants Crowley deems could definitely be performing better.

“Oh, look at you,” Crowley says to an underperforming hellebore. “Your petals are wilting. You’re looking quite drab. Just might have to do away with you if you can’t get it together. You remember what I did to your snowdrop friend last Wednesday, don’t you? Because if you need a reminder—”

“Crawley.”

Crowley jumps, blushing over being caught as he whirls around to face Ligur, who’s standing a few paces away. He huffs, catching his breath. “S’just Anthony. You know I don’t go by that anymore.”

Ligur looks over him, amused. “Nice apron.”

Crowley purses his lips. “What do you want?”

Ligur pulls a piece of paper out of his pocket, squinting at Hastur’s scrawly handwriting. “Do you have, er, foxglove?”

Crowley sputters, unable to speak for a moment in response to such a question. “Foxglove?!”

“Yeah,” Ligur says, unbothered. “S’that not how it’s pronounced?”

“Foxglove?!” Crowley repeats, incredulous. “Foxglove?! In February?! Are you out of your mind?! They don’t bloom until June at the earliest!”

“Well, do you have seeds?” Ligur asks, unimpressed with Crowley’s display.

Crowley opens his mouth, then screws it shut, processing. “If I sell you Foxglove seeds, they aren’t going to bloom until next summer.”

“Damn,” Ligur mutters. “Could you check in the back?”

“Could I—” Crowley stops short, trying to prevent himself from screaming. “It’s February.”

“So that’s a no?”

“Leave,” Crowley says tightly, pointing his plant mister towards the exit. “Please. We close in five minutes. I want to go home.”

“Oh, bitter about working on the Sabbath, are we?” Ligur asks, mockingly.

Crowley sprays him with the plant mister.


Friday, February 16, 1990

London


Dagon hovers around Crowley for almost half an hour, much to his annoyance, before she says, “What’s this I hear about you refusing to sell foxglove to a customer?”

Crowley stiffens, fiddling with a snowdrop. “Foxgloves aren’t in season. You know that.”

“Could’ve sold him seeds,” Dagon points out.

“Foxgloves don’t bloom until their second year,” Crowley argues, silently wondering to himself why he can’t have the managerial position. “If Ligur wanted foxgloves now, he’s out of luck.”

“Ah, so you know Ligur,” Dagon says.

“Yeah, I know Ligur,” Crowley says cautiously. “How do you know Ligur?”

“Religious affiliations,” Dagon says nonchalantly.

“You’re a Satanist?” Crowley asks, trying not to sound as alarmed as he is.

“Oh,” Dagon says, mildly annoyed. “You know about that?”

“I mean I, er,” Crowley looks intensely at the snowdrop, rubbing a leaf between his thumb and index finger. “I went to school with him. Hastur, too. And, er, Bells. I had a bit of a phase.”

“Oh, shit!” Dagon exclaims delightedly. “Were you the other kid that got expelled with them?”

Crowley has a threshold of personal information he’s willing to share with his boss, and this conversation is meeting the quota for the next four decades. “The one and only.”

“They said you cried like a baby when you told your mum you’d converted!” Dagon laughs, and Crowley can feel his face burning spectacularly.

“Seems like a bit of an exaggeration,” he mutters, wandering over to the hellebores. “And I’m not converted anymore. And you know, either way, what did Ligur want with foxgloves?”

“No, no,” Dagon says, following him. “I distinctly remember hearing the story. They said you couldn’t even get through the sentence before you started bawling.”

“I was drunk,” Crowley says quickly. 

“Drunk on communion wine, if I remember correctly,” Dagon leans against the flowers and Crowley has to fight the instinct to swat her away. “That must have been quite the night for you.”

“You know, I might just be projecting here,” Crowley says, “but isn’t one of the Satanic commandments not to bother people? I daresay I remember reading that somewhere.”

“Something like that, maybe,” Dagon says vaguely. “Isn’t it one of the ten commandments not to worship another God?”

“Ha,” Crowley says dryly. “It’s actually two of them. Is Hastur still sacrificing animals? I hear that’s against your rules as well.”

“Not if it’s for food,” Dagon counters.

“Oh, he’s gonna eat a dove he gutted, then, is he?” Crowley asks, recalling the one and only time he snuck out under the guise of performing some sort of ritual sacrifice. In reality, they were just four seventeen year olds with one knife between them, and one of them proved to be a bit too squeamish for the evenings activities.

“You know, I think I remember a story about that, actually,” Dagon says. “Something about someone throwing up after seeing the blood of a dove.”

“I’m not squeamish about blood,” Crowley says seriously. And it’s true; you couldn’t very well deal with menstruation for ten years of your life if you took issue with blood. No, it had been seeing the dove guts that had set him off.

“Anyways, why did Ligur want foxgloves? Honestly?” Crowley asks, desperate to talk about anything but this. “They’re highly poisonous. I can’t imagine what he wanted with them.”

“Eh, some thing he and Beelzebub are planning,” Dagon says vaguely, which tells Crowley he probably doesn’t want to know.


Saturday, February 17, 1990

Tadfield


Crowley spends the entire drive telling himself he’s going for the garden. He’s going to check on the garden and see what the damage is so far, see if he needs to go ahead and uproot anything, and to lay the stones he got. That’s the only reason he’s driving down to Tadfield, and he knows Rose isn’t going to believe him, and she shouldn’t, because it’s a complete lie. 

She comes out onto the porch as he takes a small abundance of stones out of the backseat of his car and sets them on the lawn. “What the hell are you doing?”

Crowley turns to look at her; she’s wearing her pajamas and a robe. She looks exhausted. “Garden,” he says simply, trying to sound nonchalant.

“Anthony, it’s February!” she cries. “You can’t be working with your hands out here, your Raynaud’s—!”

“Hey,” Crowley says, shutting the door of his car and grabbing the first stone to take to the back. “I’m not here to worry about your health, quit worrying about mine.”

She frowns at him. “You’re going to get gangrene.”

“I’m not going to get gangrene!” Crowley exclaims, slipping around the side of the house. 

Unfortunately, Crowley did neglect to bring gloves, so he hardly gets through arranging the third stone before his hands go white, and then completely numb. He lays the stones best he can, trying to focus on making them look nice instead of doing the job quickly. He’s in the middle of fixing one near the tomatoes, when he hears the telltale clack of a bike coming down the alleyway.

He rolls his eyes, grinning, and pretends not to notice until he hears a voice from over the fence. “Mr. Crowley!”

He looks over his shoulder to find Pepper and Brian peaking over the fence. “Hi, Pepper,” he says, giving her a little wave. “What has you two out and about?”

“Saw your car,” Brian says. “Is it a holiday?”

“No, just gardening,” Crowley says honestly. “Though I ought to be heading in soon. I’d say the same about you.”

“Are you shouting at your plants, again?” Pepper asks.

“I don’t shout,” Crowley assures her. “Just scold. Keeps them in line.”

Pepper nods sagely. “We’re having a Dungeons and Dragons meeting tomorrow. We play every Sunday.”

“Every Sunday?” Crowley asks. “My friends and I only play on the first Friday of each month.”

“Why?” Brian asks.

“We’re adults, no time to get together every Sunday,” Crowley says. “Happy birthday, by the way.”

Brian beams. Pepper continues on. “We play at ten. In the quarry. You should come. If you want.”

Crowley shakes his head. “Quarry’s too cold, sorry. And I’m not staying the night, anyways. Just came up to check on the garden and my mum.”

Pepper sniffs. “Alright,” she says. “S’fine. Party members only, anyways.”

“Am I not honorary anymore?” Crowley asks, feigning hurt.

Pepper opens her mouth to answer, but Brian lurches up on the fence and points at Crowley, his eyes wide. “Your hands are white!”

Crowley looks down; his hands are indeed completely, starkly white. “Oh, yes,” he says. “My nose’ll be next. Time for me to head inside.”

He glances behind him; there’s still one stone out of place, but when he tries to grab it, the cold stings, so he decides to leave it be for now. “You two have fun at D&D tomorrow,” he says, getting to his feet with minimal struggle. “Stay warm.”

They hop down off the fence and scamper off down the alley before Crowley even gets to the back door. Inside, Rose is sitting on the couch, still clad in her sleep wear. 

“I put the kettle on,” she says wearily. “Should be just about ready.”

Indeed, it’s beginning to whistle. As Crowley passes the couch, she squints at his hands. “Gangrene…”

“Mum,” Crowley says with a smile. “They’re not green. They’re white.”

“Frostbite, then,” Rose says, worried.

“Mum, they’ve turned white before.”

“Yes, when you jumped in the lake in ’73.”

“And I lived, didn’t I?” Crowley says gently, as the kettle moves from a whistle to a shriek. 

Rose goes to say something, but instead she lapses into a coughing fit that lasts the entire time it takes Crowley to get both their mugs ready. He walks back into the den with a worried expression on his face and sets her mug in front of her.

“That cough,” he says. “It sounds bad. Are you sure you’re alright?”

“I’m fine, Anthony,” Rose says, though she sounds a bit worse for wear. 

“You’ve had it for weeks,” Crowley points out, sitting on the opposite end of the couch and using his tea more as a hand warmer than as a beverage. 

“It’s cold out,” Rose reasons. “You’ll catch one, too, gardening in the frost.”

“I’m fine, mum,” Crowley says gently.

“Either way, your anxiety will be sated. I’m going to the doctor on Thursday,” she says, taking a sip of her tea. “Probably tell me to get something over the counter. Though, maybe I could get him to prescribe my son something for his terrible, horrible anxiety.”

Crowley doesn’t even crack a smile. “Nothing for that.”

“Might be soon,” Rose points out. She has to pause to cough again, during which time Crowley tries to distract himself by taking a long sip of his tea. He drinks almost half of it by the time she’s done. “What was I saying? Oh, they’re coming up with some new drug for anxiety. Supposed to make people panic less.”

“Well, I’m in a constant state of panic, so I might have to look into it,” Crowley mutters, setting his mug down on the coffee table. He pulls a cigarette pack out of his coat pocket. “Do you mind?”

“Not at all,” Rose says, setting her mug down as well. “I’ll have one.”

“I need a lighter,” Crowley says, and Rose manages to produce one in under ten seconds. 

He sits back on the couch, nursing his cigarette, refusing to admit that one of the things he loves most about coming home is that he doesn’t have to freeze his ass off outside to have a smoke in February.


Sunday, February 18, 1990

Tadfield


Brian is the last one to arrive at Wensleydale’s house, shivering like a leaf. 

“I th-thought you s-said quar-ry,” he stutters, sitting down in all his layers. 

Wensleydale frowns. “Why would we say quarry? We always meet here when it’s cold!”

“Mr. Crowley was in town,” Adam says, and there’s just enough tease in his voice to provoke Pepper to tackle him. They scuffle for a moment while Brian sits, shivering, and Wensleydale resolves to do the sensible thing and go find something warm for him to sip. 


Friday, February 23, 1990

London


Crowley is in the middle of changing out of his work clothes when his phone rings; it’s the one the telemarketers haven’t discovered yet, which means it can only be one of four people, so he trips over climbing out of his khakis to get to it and ends up answering the phone in his work shirt and briefs.

“Hallo?” he asks, just barely managing to catch the phone on it’s last ring.

“Oh, Anthony,” Rose says; she sounds tired. “Are you alright?”

“Fine,” Crowley says. “Are you? Why are you calling?”

“Well, you’re always begging,” Rose says, annoyed. “Am I interrupting something?”

“No!” Crowley assures her. “I just got home from work. Did you go to the doctor? What did he say?”

There’s a heavy pause. “It’s… just a cough, Anthony.”

“It’s lasted for weeks!” Crowley argues. “It can’t just be a cough.”

“You know how I am at the doctor, Anthony,” his mother says sternly. “You don’t need to get all up in arms, I ask plenty of questions myself. I’m fine. I assure you, you can stop worrying. He said it’s just the cold getting to me.”

Crowley wants to argue, but he’s not exactly a doctor, just a gardener, so he takes a deep breath and lets it go. “Okay,” he says. “Did he prescribe you anything?”

“Just tea and honey,” Rose says, teasing. “Listen, you didn’t really properly get to visit last weekend. Why don’t you come down this weekend to make up for it? We can have dinner. Go to church, you know?”

Crowley hesitates, alarm bells going off in his head. “Are you sure you’re alright?”

“I’m fine,” Rose snaps. “Sometimes I just like spending time with my son. Is that so terrible?”

“No,” Crowley says quietly. “Do you want me to come down now? I could be there in an hour. I could get food.”

Rose hesitates. “Don’t trouble yourself.”

“It’s no trouble,” Crowley says earnestly. “I just need to change. I’ll come down now.”

“Alright,” Rose says. “Drive safe. Love you.”

“Love you, too,” Crowley says warmly. He waits for her to hang up the phone, then sets it back on the receiver. He glances at Vesper, who is staring at him, and for the first time he seems to register that he doesn’t have on pants.

“Well, don’t look,” he says sheepishly, shuffling back to his room.


Saturday, February 24, 1990

Tadfield


There are no curtains in Crowley’s childhood room, seeing as just about nobody sleeps there, except for him on the odd occasion. Indeed, his old room exists in an odd sort of purgatory, since it’s no longer his, but never managed to make the full transition to guest room. There are still glow in the dark stars plastered to the ceiling. 

He stays in bed long after he wakes up, unable to go back to sleep because of the sunlight, but content to just doze. He’s finally roused from bed when he hears Rose coming out of her room to settle into her morning routine, so he follows suit. He climbs out of bed and drags on his robe and finds her in the den, sitting in her chair reading her Bible. 

“Hey,” he says, still adjusting to being awake. “Want ssomething to drink?”

Her lips quirk up into a gentle smile at the presence of his lisp. “Coffee, if you’re making.”

“Ssure,” Crowley says, making his way to the kitchen. He makes each of them a cup of coffee, thoroughly enjoying the haziness of the lazy hour. He hands her her mug in the den, then backtracks into the kitchen to dig in his coat pocket for a cigarette.

“I’m sstepping out for a ssmoke,” he says, holding up the cigarette as proof as he unlocks the back door.

Rose frowns. “It’s cold,” she says, looking up. “So early?”

“Wakess me up,” Crowley reasons. “I’ll jusst be a minute.”

“I have biscotti,” Rose calls after him, as he’s almost out the door. 

He backtracks with a pleased look on his face. “Do you really?”

“Made it myself,” Rose says with a smile.

Crowley pops the cigarette between his lips and puts his lighter in his robe pocket, to free one of his hands up. “Do you want one?” he asks from the kitchen, the words coming out odd as he tries to keep the cigarette in place.

“No,” Rose says, going back to her reading. “Made it for you.”

Crowley smiles, then nearly drops his cigarette in his coffee doing so, so he dunks a biscotti in the mug to soak on his walk to the porch and takes the cigarette in his hand again. 

Outside, he’s immediately assaulted by the cold, which is slowly dissipating to a mild chill; he’s also hit with the sound of high, shouting voices as the Them make their way towards the alleyway. Must have decided it wasn’t too cold to be out and about making trouble.

Crowley lights his cigarette and takes a drag, sitting down on the porch steps and listening in.

They reach the end of the alleyway, and their hollering comes to an abrupt stop, and then they resume in hushed tones, too far away for Crowley to hear what they’re discussing. Pepper comes clacking back down the alleyway, then pulls her bike to a stop and, based on the sound produced, simply drops it onto the ground. 

A mess of ginger hair and freckles pops her head over the fence, spots him, and immediately has a blush to rival her hair color.

Crowley grins and waves to her. “Good morning, Pepper.”

 The rest of the Them peak over the fence almost in unison, and Crowley takes another drag of his cigarette. “Hi, Mr. Crowley,” Wensleydale says, and Brian offers him a wave. 

“What are you doing here?” Adam asks.

“Just visiting my mum,” Crowley says.

“S’that a cigarette?” Wensleydale asks.

“Er, yeah,” Crowley says, a bit sheepishly. “Don’t smoke. S’bad for you.”

“Then why are you smoking?” Adam asks.

“I’ve made my bed, now I have to lie in it,” Crowley says. He stands with some effort and puts his cigarette out in the ash tray that sits on the windowsill. He steps down off the porch so he doesn’t have to shout to talk to Them and stirs his coffee with his biscotti.

“What’s that?” Pepper asks.

“Biscotti,” Crowley tells her, through his bite. “S’an Italian pastry.”

He pauses. “Do you want one?”

The Them give various responses of affirmation, so Crowley holds up a finger and dunks his own back into his coffee, then runs inside.

“Who’re you talking to?” Rose asks, looking at him oddly.

“The Them,” Crowley says, sliding into the kitchen. “They want to try biscotti.”

He returns to the fence with four pieces; they each take theirs, eagerly bite into them, and grimace. 

“It’s… hard,” Pepper says, still attempting to bite into hers.

“It’s twice baked,” Crowley offers helpfully. 

“It’s not very good,” Adam admits.

“I usually have mine with coffee,” Crowley explains. “But I don’t think your parents would be very thrilled if I offered you lot caffeine.”

Brian, who had been furiously gnawing on his biscotti, freezes up suddenly. He sticks a hand in his mouth, rooting around for something, and then holds up what looks like a piece of chipped tooth. “S’this normal?”

Crowley pales a bit. “Er, where did that come from?”

Wensleydale makes Brian look at him and open his mouth, and he inspects. “I think a molar.”

“A molar?” Pepper repeats.

“Yeah, those are your back teeth,” Wensleydale explains. Without warning he sticks a finger in Brian’s mouth, touching the chipped tooth. “Is this still a baby tooth?”

“Yeah,” Brian says, the word muffled around Wensleydale’s hand.

“Oh,” Crowley says, relaxing a bit. “Well, then that’s not too bad. Just wait for it to fall out. And, er, maybe don’t mention to your mum I gave you biscotti.”

“Okay,” Brian says as Wensleydale takes his hand back; he wipes it on his pants.

“We’re playing Dungeons and Dragons tomorrow,” Adam says, taking initiative over the topic Pepper had been waiting to jump in on; she glares at him for stealing her thunder.

“Ah,” Crowley says, taking another bite of his own biscotti. “Quarry?”

“No!” Brian exclaims, his eyes wide. “S’too cold for the quarry.”

He turns and glares at Pepper. “If we’re gonna play somewhere outside it can’t be the quarry.”

“Why does it have to be outside?” Crowley asks, and the four look at him, embarrassed.

“Er,” Wensleydale says. “‘cause Pepper—”

Despite being two people apart from him, Pepper tackles him off the fence. Brian takes the baton that she likely wouldn’t want passed at all and continues as the two scuffle in the alleyway. “If we wanna invite you to a game we have to play outside ‘cause it’d be weird if you came to Wensleydale’s house.”

“Yeah, you’re an adult,” Adam says, in a tone that suggests Crowley might not have been aware.

“That is true,” Crowley says. “I’m a bit old to join your party. Besides, I don’t think my party would appreciate that very much. They’d feel very betrayed.”

Pepper jumps back up on the fence, significantly dirtier than she was when she jumped down. “But what if we’re playing at the quarry?”

“Bit cold for the quarry,” Crowley points out, before Brian can shout his protests. “Although, I might be out in the garden tomorrow afternoon if it’s not too chilly, so if you were to have your session in the alleyway, I might happen to listen in.”

The Them’s faces all light up; they had never successfully invited Mr. Crowley to a session before.


Sunday, February 25, 1990

Tadfield


Rose is quiet most of Sunday, despite Crowley’s efforts to get her to talk. It makes him feel slightly uneasy, the halt in conversation putting him on edge. Every time he asks, though, she insists there’s nothing wrong, and he knows her too well not to trust her, so he leaves her to it.

“Anthony,” Rose calls, seeking conversation for the first time since they’d gotten home from church, pulling him out of the world of You Only Live Twice.

“Yeah?” he asks eagerly, setting the book in his lap.

She looks at him, almost sadly. “Have you decided what to give up for Lent?”

Crowley winces slightly. “Haven’t, no, I’m sorry,” he says. “Although, I thought, maybe, it wouldn’t kill me not to check on the garden until after Easter… they’d certainly need to be whipped into shape afterwards, but—”

“No,” Rose says, effectively cutting him off. “No, what if you, er… what about smoking?”

Crowley blinks. “Smoking?”

“Yeah,” Rose says. “For Lent.”

Crowley’s tongue feels stuck to the roof of his mouth. “I mean, I’ve… I’ve thought about it, but…”

“It’d be hard,” Rose finishes for him. “Yeah. I know. But that’s the point, Anthony.”

Crowley wilts a little. “I mean… if you want me to—”

“I do.”

Crowley drums his fingers on the cover of his book, trying to mentally calculate how many cigarettes he can have before Wednesday. He wonders if he can get through the rest of his pack.

“Okay,” he says, albeit rather reluctantly. “I’ll try.”

In the afternoon, it evens out to a crisp ten degrees, which is very nice indeed, so Crowley rummages around for a pair of gloves to keep his Raynaud’s in check, and resolves that cold weather isn’t any reason for his plants to be underperforming. 

“I’m going out in the garden,” Crowley calls vaguely, tossing his coat on.

“Your Raynaud’s—!”

“I’m wearing gloves!” Crowley shouts, pulling the back door open.

The stone he hadn’t managed to place the previous weekend is still sitting in the same spot, so he moves it to where he wants it and then spends several minutes fussing over the others. When they’re finally to his liking, he sets himself on inspecting the rest of the garden to see what the winter damage is.

When he hears the Them coming towards the alleyway, he moves to the plants by the fence, honestly interested in hearing what sort of campaign they’ve managed to come up with.

They get settled quickly, evidently continuing a conversation they’d started on their way to the alley. “If I was an alien,” Pepper says confidently, “I wouldn't go round telling people all about mystic cosmic harmony. I'd say,” her voice became hoarse and nasal, like someone hampered by an evil black mask, “‘Thish ish a lasher blashter, sho you do what you're told, rebel swine.’”

Crowley snickers, and the Them seem to pause for a moment, gauging his reaction, before Adam continues. “I suspect that's what they used to do,” he says thoughtfully. “But now it's different. They all have this bright blue light around ‘em and go around doing good. Sort of galactic policemen, going round tellin’ everyone to live in universal harmony and stuff.”

They paused to ponder this; in the moment of silence Crowley leaned in close to threaten his witch hazel, which seemed to be deciding it wasn’t going to be making a comeback this year.

“What I've always wondered,” Brian says, “is why they call ‘em UFOs when they know they’re flying saucers. I mean, they’re Identified Flying Objects then.”

“It’s ‘cause the government hushes it all up,” Adam tells him. “Millions of flying saucers landing all the time and the government keeps hushing it up.”

“Why?” Wensleydale asks.

Adam hesitates. “‘Cause they're the government,” he supplies simply. “That’s what governments do. They’ve got this great big building in London full of books of all the things they’ve hushed up. When the Prime Minister gets in to work in the morning, the first thing he does is go through the big list of everything that's happened in the night and put this big red stamp on them.”

“That’s true,” Crowley says, as he checks on the roots of the witch hazel. “I live in London. See the building all the time.”

“Really?” Pepper asks.

“Yup,” Crowley says, grinning. “Every morning on my way to work.”

“I bet the Minister has a cup of tea first, and then reads the paper,” Wensleydale says, enthralled. “And talks about what was on TV last night.”

“Well, alright, but after that he gets out the book and the big stamp.”

“Which says Hush It Up,” Pepper adds.

“It says Top Secret,” Adam argues, resenting this attempt at bipartisan creativity. “It’s like nuclear power stations. They keep blowing up all the time but no one ever finds out ‘cause the government hushes it up.”

“They don’t keep blowing all the time,” Wensleydale says nervously.

“Look,” says Adam severely. “Do you want me to tell the campaign about UFO’s, or not?”

“But are we being aliens or government people?” Pepper asks.

“Flyin’ saucer,” Brian says. “I wanna pilot a flyin’ saucer.”

“Right. Right.” Adam says. “So you’ll all be aliens. But if anyone sees a flying UFO, these government men come and tell you off. In a big black car. It happens all the time in America.”

The Them nod sagely.

“Probably causes traffic jams,” Adam continues, “all these men in black cars, going about telling people off for seeing UFOs. They tell you that if you go on seeing ‘em, you’ll have a Nasty Accident.”

“Probably get run over by a big black car,” Brian says.

“But if we’re aliens, who’s going to be the government people?” Pepper asks. “You can’t play if you DM.”

“I’ll be government people,” Crowley calls over the fence; his voice has moved position. He’s inspecting his primrose now. “I’ll jump in when you need me.”

The Them exchange excited looks. 

Adam clears his throat, trying to act composed. “Okay,” he says, standing up straight. “So you’re entering Earth’s atmosphere. Wensleydale, roll for, er, stealth.”


Wednesday, February 28, 1990

Ash Wednesday

London


“You’ve got something on your face,” Dagon says.

Chapter Text

Friday, March 2, 1990

Third Day of Lent

Third Session

London


Crowley knows that, realistically, he should be cleaning his coffee table off so Newt will be able to use it to stage their game, but all he can bring himself to do at the moment is lay face down on his couch. He has what’s likely to be the worst headache of his life, and every time he tries to even think about getting up and ready to have guests, it seems to get worse.

He’s still in his work clothes; he hasn’t moved since he got home, and he barely managed to get home. He has half a mind to get up and call Anathema and regretfully inform her he won’t be able to play tonight, when there’s a knock at his door.

He groans loudly, but eventually manages to drag himself off the couch and answer the door.

Newt’s eyebrows immediately raise up to his hairline. “You look horrible.”

Crowley, who would normally be affronted by such a statement, agrees. “I feel horrible.”

“Are you sick?” Anathema asks, already ready to turn around and leave.

“No,” Crowley assures her. “I gave up smoking for Lent.”

“Ouch,” Newt says, wincing.

“Catholicism strikes again,” Anathema says dryly.

“Haha,” Crowley says, stepping aside so they can come in. “Yes, my suffering is very funny, thank you.”

“Didn’t Jesus, like, starve in a desert? Isn’t that why you do this?” Anathema asks. “Are you comparing your nicotine addiction to that?”

“No,” Crowley says immediately. “And I don’t have a nicotine addiction.”*

*Crowley has a nicotine addiction.

“Are you sure you’re up for playing?” Newt asks. “You really do look, just… awful.”

“He’s fine,” Anathema says, stepping past him into his flat. “He always flakes, so if he says we can play, we can play.”

Crowley shuts the door after Newt steps inside. “I do not always flake.”

“You flake the most,” Newt reasons.

“I brought cheap wine,” Anathema offers proudly, holding up the bottle.


Saturday, March 3, 1990

Fourth Day of Lent

London


Crowley is awoken by very loud knocking at his front door, which continues and seems to grow in volume the longer he tries to ignore it. Finally, he drags himself out of bed and grabs his robe, answering the door in only that and his pajamas.

It’s exactly who he was expecting it to be: Anathema.

“What do you want?” he asks, already nursing a killer headache.

Anathema holds out a bundle of small yellow flowers. “Here.”

Crowley squints at them, taking them tentatively. “What are these?”

“What, no guesses from the botanist?” Anathema teases.

Crowley glowers at her. “I’m a horticulturist, and I just woke up.”

“St. John’s Wort,” Anathema tells him. “Supposed to be a herbal remedy for nicotine addictions.”

“I don’t have a nicotine addiction,” Crowley hisses.*

*Crowley most definitely has a nicotine addiction.

“Sure,” Anathema says. “But you might benefit from making some tea with those. They help, I promise.”*

*This was a boldfaced lie. Indeed it was thought that St. John’s Worts might have a positive effect on people trying to quit smoking, and that they may help with nicotine addictions, but this has never been proven. Anathema is hoping Crowley will take her word for it without looking it up.

“Do you have a mortar and pestle?” she presses on.

Crowley squints at her. “No.”

“Ah, well,” she says dismissively. “You can roll it up in a plastic bag and crush it with a spoon.”

Crowley considers the flowers for a moment. “You’re really serious? It helps?”

“You know I’m not a doctor, but I am a witch,” she says confidently. “I don’t necessarily believe herbal remedies can cure cancer, but they can help. Warm salt water helps a sore throat, chamomile helps you get to sleep when you’re congested, that kind of shit.”

She reaches in her pocket for something. “But I also believe in vaccines, so here.”

She tosses the thing at him and he winces, his reflexes nowhere near ready for such a thing, so it hits him in the face and falls on the floor. She laughs loudly as he bends down to pick it up. 

He turns it over in his hand. “Nicorette,” he reads. “Is this that nicotine gum shit?”

“Yeah,” Anathema says. “Supposed to help, too. So have a piece of gum and make a cup of tea and go get back in bed. You still look horrible.”

“Gee, thanks,” Crowley says, putting the pack into his robe pocket. 

“Why’d you decide to give up smoking, anyways?” Anathema asks, leaning against the doorframe.

“My mum asked me to,” Crowley mutters, picking at the flowers.

Anathema coos, and Crowley frowns at her. She continues. “You gonna give it up for good?”

“What? No,” Crowley says defensively. “It’s just for Lent.”

“Well if you can make it through Lent, I don’t see why you shouldn’t just keep going,” Anathema says. “It is bad for you, Anthony. Giving it up might do you some good.”

Crowley hums, looking at the floor. 

“You might be able to get a date, for once,” Anathema tacks on, teasing.

Crowley glares at her. “Can I go back to bed now?”

“Yeah, I’ll leave you to it,” Anathema relents. “If you need more worts just give me a call. And hey, you know, I hear nicotine withdrawals peak after three days and get better from there on, so, you know. Something to look forward to.”

Crowley picks at the flowers. “Thanks,” he says, and then hesitates before stepping forward and enveloping her in a hug. 

She accepts it, hugging him back, and then jabs him in the side.

“Hey!” he says, jumping back, trying to pretend he isn’t ticklish. 

“You’re a touch-starved bastard, I hope you know that,” Anathema says with a smile.

“I am not!”

“You just hugged me for giving you flowers and a pack of gum!”

“We’re friends!”

“You’re touch-starved,” Anathema says decisively. “Or, as we witches like to call it, horny for attention.”

Crowley glowers at her. She blows him a kiss and reaches over the shut the door. “Get a boyfriend!”

“Fuck you!” he calls as she shuts the door.


Sunday, March 4, 1990

Fifth Day of Lent

London


“Are you alright?” Aziraphale asks after mass. “You don’t look too well.”

“That is the nicest anybody has phrased it thus far,” Crowley says. “And no. I’m not. I gave up smoking for Lent.”

“Ah,” Aziraphale says, understanding. “Yes, I do hear nicotine withdrawals can do a number on you.”

Crowley opens his mouth to point out that he is not, nor has he ever been, addicted to nicotine, but then he decides to cut his loses and shuts his mouth. “How’s no wine?”

“Oh, fine,” Aziraphale says idly. “Haven’t really noticed, to tell you the truth. You haven’t been by.”

Crowley smiles. “Well, next time I come by, I’ll bring some, er…”

“A sparkling juice thing?” Aziraphale prompts, and Crowley laughs.

“Mr. Crowley.”

Crowley turns around and comes to face Gabriel, who offers him a smile; Crowley returns it, although he fears it looks more like a grimace. 

“I was shown your ideas for what might be done with our garden,” he continues. “Aziraphale was rather adamant about bringing them up every chance he got.”

Crowley turns to grin at him. “Is that so?”

Gabriel blinks. “Er, yes,” he says, thrown off. “Did you, er… did you draw those up yourself?”

“Yes, I did,” Crowley says, turning back to him. “I work at a nursery, but I do gardening. I keep up with the garden for the church in Tadfield, as well. What did you think about the plans?”

“I’m very fond of them, if I’m being honest,” Gabriel says, gliding back into his rhythm. “Spring is upon us, but it’s still rather chilly. If we were to hire you, when do you think you’d be able to start working on it?”

“Oh, I’d say late April,” Crowley says immediately, having already given great consideration to the subject. “But I can get it ready to be worked on starting this month, if you like.”

“I think that would be very agreeable,” Gabriel says with a smile.

“I’ll be honest, Mr. Crowley, you didn’t much strike me as the gardener type,” Aziraphale says, and Crowley turns to look at him.

“Funny, that’s what my mum said,” Crowley says lightly. “She wanted me to be a lawyer.”

“Well, gardening suits you very much, I think,” Aziraphale says. “I can’t imagine you as a lawyer, if I’m being honest.”

“Neither can I,” Crowley says, grinning.

“Aziraphale,” Gabriel says sharply, and they both turn to look at him. “Have you spoken to Father Malachi about seminary in the fall?”

“Ah,” Aziraphale says, a slight blush coloring his cheeks. “I haven’t, no.”

“Why don’t you, then?” Gabriel asks, still smiling.

Aziraphale nods stiffly. “That I will,” he says; he looks at Crowley. “I hope you feel better.”

“Thanks,” Crowley says after him as he turns and marches away. He looks back at Gabriel. “Malachi is a… bit of an unconventional name.”

“It means messenger of God,” Gabriel says cheerfully.

“Oh,” Crowley says. “Very cool. Anthony means, er… praiseworthy, I think.”

“Gabriel means God is my strength,” Gabriel says proudly.

“Oh, very cool,” Crowley repeats. “So, er, about the garden?”

“Yes, the garden,” Gabriel says. “We can discuss the details in the office, yes?”


Friday, March 9, 1990

Tenth Day of Lent

Soho, London


“How goes the no smoking?” Aziraphale asks politely as Crowley sits down on the couch in the backroom. 

“Oh,” he says, a bit miserably. “Fine, I guess. I mean, I’d kill for a cigarette right now, but I don’t look as bad as I did before.”

“That’s true,” Aziraphale agrees. “You’re a fourth of the way there, too.”

“Yeah,” Crowley says, thinking about it very intensely. “That’s probably the first thing I’m gonna do on Easter.”

“Not giving it up for good?” Aziraphale asks.

“God, no,” Crowley says immediately. “I’d die. Which isn’t to say— I mean— look.”

He takes a deep breath. “I’m not addicted to smoking—”

“Are you sure?”

Crowley frowns at him, and Aziraphale returns a smile. Crowley looks away indignantly. “Alright, fine, maybe I am a little bit.”

“How long have you been smoking?” Aziraphale asks.

Crowley hums. “I must’ve started around seventeen. My mum smokes, too, so I never saw much of anything wrong with it.”

“Admittedly, I do sort of enjoy the smell of secondhand smoke,” Aziraphale says sheepishly. “Even though it is bad for you.”

“My mum’s house smells like cigarette smoke,” Crowley says. “I’m probably gonna relapse the next time I go to visit her.”

“Well, that’ll be Easter, won’t it?” Aziraphale asks.

“Have to get Palm Sunday out of the way first,” Crowley says. “And then, you know, Holy Thursday. Good Friday. Holy Saturday, because they ran out of adjectives—”

Aziraphale laughs.

“—and then I can have a cigarette. And, you know, the resurrection of Christ, and all that.”

“Yes, all that,” Aziraphale says. “Do you celebrate every Holy Day?”

“My mum does,” Crowley says. “I mean, I don’t consider it much of a celebration, truthfully. I go visit my mum, we go to church, we have dinner. She doesn’t go out of her way or anything. She goes to church everyday .”

Aziraphale smiles sadly. “That’s sweet.”

Crowley looks away, blushing slightly. “Yeah, I guess,” he says. “Do you celebrate with much family?”

“No,” Aziraphale says. “Live alone. I was raised by my mum, she passed away while I was in school.”

“I’m sorry,” Crowley says.

“Oh, don’t be, it’s not your fault,” Aziraphale says immediately. 

Crowley blinks. He’s not entirely sure how to respond to that.

Aziraphale continues. “Doesn’t it feel a bit silly to be talking without anything to drink?”

Crowley grins. “Yeah, sorry. I neglected to bring a sparkling juice thing.”

“Oh, not your fault,” Aziraphale says kindly. “I’m usually the one who suggests a drink.”

“What if we both, just, got a glass of water,” Crowley suggests. “That would feel… weird.”

“That would feel weird, yes.”

There’s a pause.

“Hey, is saké wine?” Crowley asks suddenly.

Aziraphale gives him a look. “It’s called rice wine. No cheating.”

“But it’s not a wine, though,” Crowley says. “It’s made with rice. Wouldn’t that make it a beer?”

Aziraphale thinks about it for a long moment. “I suppose it would.”

Crowley hums, stretching and then reaching over to pick his keys up off the table. “Well, if you’d like to sip something while we talk, I’m not opposed to eating sushi right now.”

Aziraphale smiles. “Technically, I shouldn’t leave. The shop is open.”

“So close it.”

“You are tricky,” Aziraphale says. “Alright. I doubt there’s anyone hanging around, anyway. It’s raining.”

“Perfect sushi weather, if you ask me,” Crowley says cheerfully, standing and following him out into the shop.


Saturday, March 10, 1990

Eleventh Day of Lent

London


Crowley can hear his phone ringing just about the entire time he’s in the shower, which means he knows who it is, so he doesn’t bother to answer. If it were his mum, or Aziraphale, or Newt, they would have rang once and left a message. He takes his time getting dressed.

“You’re relentless,” Crowley says when he answers the phone. 

“About time,” Anathema retorts. 

“Tomorrow, when my neighbors complain, I will be giving them your shop number to forward all complaints to,” Crowley says bitterly.

“I look forward to it,” Anathema says sweetly. “Are you looking for a good time?”

“No,” Crowley says flatly.

“Oh, yes you are. You always are.”

“Have you ever met me?”

“Let’s go out.”

“Absolutely not.”

“Please, Anthony. I want to hang out.”

“We can hang out. In my flat.”

“I want to hang out and go out.”

“Go out with Newt, Anathema. He’s your boyfriend.”

“Newt doesn’t like crowded spaces, you know that.”

“Anathema, I’ve been on my feet all day. I’m twenty-nine. I have church in the morning.”

“You’re a domestic little thing, huh?”

“My knees keep giving me trouble, Anathema.”

“Ugh, you are old.”

Crowley sighs. “Look, if you want to hang out, I’d be happy to hang out. You can come over, if you want.”

“You’re being incredibly transphobic, right now.”

“Wh—!” Crowley starts. “How am I being transphobic?!”

“Because I’m trans, and I want to go out, and you’re refusing me.”

“Well I’m trans and I want to stay in because my knees hurt.”

“You’re a baby,” Anathema says. “And you’re no fun.”

“I’m gonna hang up now,” Crowley says. “Come over if you want, but I’m not driving you anywhere. And if you keep calling, I’m going to unplug my phone.”

Anathema sighs. “I’ll be over.”

“I look forward to seeing you,” Crowley says cheerfully, but not before Anathema hangs up.


Sunday, March 11, 1990

Twelfth Day of Lent

London


“Fuck,” Crowley mutters, stepping in out of the rain, which is coming down in buckets, into the first shop on his right. He wipes his feet, not that it does much good, considering he’s soaked. So much for slipping out for a minute on his lunch break.

“Oof,” says a quiet voice. “It’s really coming down out there, isn’t it?”

Crowley looks up, and around, and his eyes land on a young lady sitting behind the counter. She looks vaguely familiar, though he’s not sure where from. He nods, stepping further inside. “Yeah,” he says, looking around. “Sorry for just running in. Thought I was gonna drown.”

“Neglected to bring an umbrella?” she asks. “I always forget mine.”

“I thought it was supposed to rain tomorrow,” Crowley admits. “It wasn’t even raining when I left work. Though I doubt I’ll have to go to much trouble to water the plants when I get back. I can just sort of…”

He shakes his arm, and a fair amount of water splashes off. The woman laughs, delighted.

“Well, it’s no trouble, you running in, we’re open as anything,” she says. “Is it chilly? I make a mean apple cider, if you’re cold.”

“Never had apple cider, actually,” Crowley admits.

The woman looks mildly affronted. “Well, that’s illegal,” she says. “I’ll make you one. Let me grab Jasper and put him at the counter and I’ll be back in just a minute.”

She disappears into a back room, and Crowley takes a moment to look around the room. It’s small, strewn with tables and chairs that don’t quite match. The back wall is lined with shelves of books, and the air is pleasantly warm. Pinned to the wall where he couldn’t see it outside is a pride flag; the sight of it makes him smile.

“Hi.”

Crowley turns back around; standing behind the counter now is—

“Oh!” he says. “That’s where I recognized her! I saw you two in Aziraphale’s shop.”

“Oh,” the man says, blushing a little. “Yeah. We go in there pretty regularly.”

“He said you did,” Crowley says. “Jasper, is it?”

“Yeah,” Jasper says.

“Anthony,” Crowley returns politely. He looks over his shoulder at the flag again, then says, “I like your flag.”

“Oh,” Jasper says. “Yeah. Wish we had more to hang up, but, y’know. Wish we had a bi one. Or, like… a trans one…”

“Oh, I’d love a trans one,” Crowley agrees enthusiastically. “I dunno where I’d hang one, but I’d definitely get one.”

“Yeah,” Jasper agrees with a slight smile, and then the young woman comes out of the back room again with a mug and a smile on her face.

“You can sit anywhere,” she says cheerfully, handing him the drink. “We’re usually a little busier on Sundays, but I guess that’s the rain.”

“Must be,” Crowley says; he takes a sip of the cider, then hums and says, “That’s actually really good.”

She beams. “Thank you.”

“Anthony likes our flag,” Jasper says from the counter.

“Oh, your name is Anthony?” she asks.

“Yeah,” Crowley says, sitting down. “And I do like your flag.”

“Me, too,” she says. “I like gay bars as much as the next guy, but I don’t drink, so I like having a queer space that’s just… calm.”

“Encouraging of reading,” Jasper offers from the counter.

“Serves nonalcoholic beverages,” she adds.

“Open to minors,” Jasper suggests.

“Serves really good apple cider,” Crowley pitches.

She looks back at him, a slight blush coloring her cheeks. “Oh, thank you.”

“Angel, can you get back behind the counter?” Jasper asks. “I’m really supposed to be watching what’s in the oven.”

“Of course,” she says cheerfully, sliding back behind the counter as Jasper disappears into the back. 

Crowley checks his watch, then takes another sip. “I ought to head back out in a minute.”

“Is it still coming down?” she asks, glancing out the windows; it’s still raining, but not quite as hard.

“I’m sure I’ll be fine,” Crowley says. “I can run. It’s not far. And I’m sure the plants will enjoy a drink.”

“Don’t slip,” she says helpfully. “I slipped going into a coffee shop with Jasper last week and banged my head on a chair outside. Hurt my thigh, too.”

“Ouch,” Crowley says, although when he imagines the situation in his head he has to admit he probably would have laughed. “Hey did I, er, catch your name?”

She tells him; it immediately slips his mind because he’s imagining how she must have looked falling over like that. He smiles a little bit, checks his watch again and finishes his cider.

He stands. “How much for the cider?”

“Oh, on the house,” she says with a smile.

“Oh, no,” he says, although he’s not keen on actually refusing free things; he says it more to be polite.

“I insist,” she says, and, well, if she insists. “It’s a first time discount. Or something like that.”

“Well, thank you,” he says, making his way over to the door. “Ciao.”

“Oh,” she says. “Er, sure. Ciao!”


Friday, March 16, 1990

Seventeenth Day of Lent

Soho, London


“Finally,” Anathema says when Crowley steps into her shop. “I’m actually starving. I’ve been looking forward to this all day.”

Crowley sets a paper bag down on the counter and pulls out a sandwich. “You’ve been looking forward to a meal made by a sixteen year old?”

“I don’t care who made it, I just care that the bread is toasted.” Anathema snatches the sandwich out of Crowley’s hand, unwrapping it eagerly. “Thank you, Anthony.”

“Uh-huh,” Crowley says, pulling his own sandwich out of the bag. “Can I eat this here?”

“You can do whatever you want,” Anathema says through her bite.

“I would have, anyways,” Crowley shrugs, unwrapping his sandwich.

“Shouldn’t you be getting back to work?” Anathema asks. “Not to shoo you out after you brought me food, but won’t Dagon want you back?”

“I’m done for today,” Crowley admits, taking a bite.

“Ugh, you work the weirdest hours,” Anathema groans. “When are you gonna get the manager position?”

“I ask myself that every single morning when I wake up,” Crowley says miserably. “I’m probably gonna have to kill Dagon for the job.”

“Would that really be so terrible?” she asks. “Besides the fact that you’re horribly squeamish, I mean.”

“Ha ha,” Crowley says dryly.

“Hey, listen,” Anathema says. “Newt wants to have dinner together. He wants to see you more often than just once a month. And he’s concerned about how you’re doing with the smoking.”

“I’m doing fine,” Crowley says, although he could really go for a smoke at the mention of it. “When did he want to get together?”

“Tomorrow night.”

“Can’t.”

“Oh, don’t be like that,” Anathema says, giving him a look. “You’re such a flake.”

“I’m not a flake, I really do have plans!” Crowley insists.

“Tadfield?” Anathema asks.

Crowley shakes his head.

She grins wickedly.

“Oh, wipe that look of your face,” Crowley snaps. “We’re just friends.”

“You don’t just make friends, Anthony!” Anathema exclaims. “I had to wear you down to get you to talk to me on a regular basis, and you only started talking to Newt because I started dating him!”

“I don’t like him,” Crowley hisses. “He’s just fun to talk to, okay!”

“You don’t think anyone is fun to talk to,” Anathema insists. “What could you two possibly be doing tomorrow night?”

Crowley blushes. “We’re having dinner.”

“Oh, my God!” Anathema exclaims. “You’re so gay!”

“Shut up!”

“Anthony, that’s gay!”

“You literally just invited me to dinner with you and Newt! How is this any different?!”

“Where are you going?”

Crowley hesitates. “My flat.”

“Anthony!” Anathema shouts, but just as she does the door opens and two patrons trickle into the shop. She composes herself, pointing a finger at him. “That’s gay,” she says quietly.

“It’s not,” Crowley insists through gritted teeth.

“Finish your sandwich,” Anathema says, stepping out from behind the counter, “and contemplate the fact that it’s a date, and that you like him.”

“I do not,” Crowley insists as she walks away, asking what the patrons are interested in.


Saturday, March 17, 1990

Eighteenth Day of Lent

London


“Is that your snake?” Aziraphale asks, eyeing the tank nervously.

“Oh, yeah,” Crowley says. “Don’t be nervous, she’s very docile. Shy, almost, when she meets new people.”

Crowley gravitates towards her tank naturally, happy to be able to show her off; Anathema and Newt are very familiar with her, and Rose hates snakes. 

Aziraphale follows him. “What, er, type is she?”

“A rosy boa,” Crowley tells him. “Would you like to hold her?”

“Oh, no,” Aziraphale says quickly. “That’s fine. I mean, I’m sure she’s lovely, but, no. What’s her name?”

“Vesper,” Crowley says.

Aziraphale smiles. “Like the Bond girl?”

Crowley blushes deeply, looking away. “Er, maybe,” he says, already turning and walking towards his kitchen. “Say, er, do you like pasta?”

“Is there anyone in the world who doesn’t like pasta?” Aziraphale asks, following him.

“You know what? Excellent point.”

Crowley takes a mental inventory of what he needs, then falters. “Er,” he says, turning around. “Is it… cheating… if I use wine to cook?”

“Sorry?” Aziraphale asks.

“If I cook with wine, does that count?” Crowley asks. “For you. For Lent.”

“Oh,” Aziraphale says, frowning. “I… hm.”

They both think about it for a moment.

“I don’t think it should,” Crowley says finally. “I mean, the alcohol gets burned up, why should it count?”

“I don’t think there are loopholes in Lent,” Aziraphale says doubtfully. “I think it counts.”

“Oh, surely it doesn’t,” Crowley insists. “It’s, like… hidden. It all evaporates. It’s not like you’re drinking it.”

“You’re rather keen on making excuses,” Aziraphale says. “Seems to me you’re looking for an excuse to have a cigarette.”

“Oh, no,” Crowley says immediately. “I don’t even have any cigarettes… although truthfully I wouldn’t mind one.”

“Well, truthfully, I wouldn’t mind a glass of wine,” Aziraphale counters.

“Well, truthfully, I’m not offering you a glass of wine,” Crowley says. “I’m going to cook with it.”

Aziraphale sighs. “Well, if you’re going to cook with it, I won’t object.”

Crowley hums. “You’re rather keen on making excuses,” he quotes.

“Oh, come now,” Aziraphale says, irritation sneaking into the edge of his tone. “Don’t be like that. I’ll just have to go to confession. I haven’t been in quite a while, anyways.”

“Oh, me either,” Crowley says, turning back to his kitchen now that he has permission to continue. “I never go to confession.”

“Oh,” Aziraphale says, mildly startled. “But… you take communion.”

“Yeah, and?” Crowley says, handing him a pot. “Fill that with water. I’m putting you in charge of the pasta.”

“Oh, okay,” Aziraphale says, stepping around him towards the sink. “But, you know you’re not supposed to take communion without confessing your sins.”

“I know,” Crowley says. “I went to Catholic school.”

“You were expelled from Catholic school.”

“Well, I went. And I, you know, learned the Lord’s prayer and all the rules and shit. I know when all the Holy Days are. There’s just a lot of things I don’t agree with.”

“You don’t agree in confessing your sins?” Aziraphale asks, turning the water on.

“I do confess my sins,” Crowley says. “He always knows what I’m doing. I apologize for stuff.”

“You’re supposed to speak to a priest,” Aziraphale says doubtfully.

“Why?” Crowley asks.

Aziraphale hesitates. 

“Exactly my point,” Crowley continues. “Why does a priest need to know what I’m up to?”

“Well, priests… the clergymen, they kind of… connect the people to God,” Aziraphale says.

“Yeah, but they’re just men,” Crowley says. “Men who, more than likely, are going to tell me I belong in Hell because I’m gay. My sins are my business. You’re overflowing there.”

“What?” Aziraphale asks, blushing, before noticing that the water is overflowing out of the pot. “Oh, goodness.”

“I know I’m fun to listen to, but try not to get distracted,” Crowley says cheekily.


Sunday, March 18, 1990

Nineteenth Day of Lent

London


In a move that would make Rose heinously upset, Crowley wears jeans to mass. 

Specifically because he doesn’t have a pair of slacks he’s willing to ruin for any garden. So he sits the service in jeans and afterwards he talks to Aziraphale in the lobby as usual, and then he snakes his way outside to start on his attempts at making the garden presentable.

“I thought you said late April?” Aziraphale inquires as he follows him outside.

“Oh, for planting things, late April for sure,” Crowley says. “But I have to get everything ready for them before they settle in, you see?”

“I do,” Aziraphale agrees. “What sort of—?”

“Aziraphale!” Gabriel calls with a tense smile, and Aziraphale barely manages to keep himself from scowling.

“Excuse me,” he says politely. “I’m certain that’ll be another conversation about seminary. I’m looking forward to seeing your progress.”

“Ciao,” Crowley says, trying to mask his disappointment of not having him hanging around while he works.


Friday, March 23, 1990

Twenty-Fourth Day of Lent

London


“Hey, Anthony?” Newt asks abruptly, effectively interrupting Crowley’s story.

“Er, yeah?” he asks, and Newt seems to consider what he wants to ask for a long moment.

“This, er, Aziraphale guy,” he says slowly. “Are you two, like… dating?”

“Oh, my God,” Anathema says quietly, covering her mouth excitedly.

“What?! No!” Crowley says immediately, blushing fiercely. “Why would you ask that?! Did Anathema tell you that? Because she’s a liar.”

“Anathema didn’t tell me anything,” Newt says calmly. “I’m just wondering, because we’ve been at dinner for, like, an hour, and every time you talk, you bring him up.”

“No,” Crowley says quickly. “That’s not true—”

“It so is!” Anathema insists. “You keep talking about him! Everything reminds you of him!”

“So are you dating?” Newt asks again.

“No!” Crowley says. 

“Well, are you gonna ask him out?” Newt asks.

“No!” Crowley says. “I don’t like him! We’re— we’re just friends!”

Newt makes a face that strongly indicates doubt. “I think you do like him.”

“Okay, I expect teasing from you,” Crowley snaps, looking accusingly at Anathema, “but when did this become a double act?!”

“It’s not a double act!” Anathema says, delighted. 

“I really am just asking,” Newt says. “Because you… seem to like him a lot.”

“I don’t,” Crowley hisses.

“Anthony,” Anathema says. “I know it’s one thing for me to point out that you have the hots for someone, because I do it all the time—”

“And you’re always wrong!” Crowley says.

“—but Newt just pointed it out.”

“You keep getting this look on your face when you talk about him,” Newt says. “And I dunno what I look like when I talk about Anathema, because I never talk about her into a mirror, but I imagine that’s something what I look like.”

“Oh, you sap,” Anathema says, feigning annoyance.

“I don’t like him,” Crowley repeats, but in a worried sort of voice.

“We’re getting to him,” Anathema stage whispers into Newt’s ear. She clears her throat. “Anthony, let me ask you something: do you think he’s attractive?”

“I—” Crowley says, flustered, “I— I don’t know.”

“Yeah, you do,” Anathema says, grinning wickedly. “It’s a yes or no question.”

“I guess,” Crowley says. “But that’s not—that doesn’t mean anything, I think you’re attractive.”

“I’m a girl, doesn’t count,” she says, taking a sip of her drink. “Do you think Newt is attractive?”

“I— sure.”

“Would you snog him?”

“No!” Crowley says quickly. 

“Thanks,” Newt says.

“Oh, you know what I mean,” Crowley says, annoyed. “You’re taken and straight. Would you snog me?”

“For five pounds, maybe,” Newt says, and Anathema cackles.

“Okay, it’s not that funny,” Crowley hisses. “And I’m worth more than five pounds.”

“I’d pay ten,” Anathema admits. “There’s this months compliment. Savor it.”

“Thanks ever so,” Crowley says bitterly.

“Okay, follow up question,” Anathema says. “Would you snog Aziraphale?”

“I will pay for your dinner if you shut up,” Crowley says, his face burning.

“Seriously?” Anathema asks, and Crowley nods. “Holy shit, deal.”

“Thank you,” Crowley says, exasperated.


Saturday, March 24, 1990

Twenty-Fifth Day of Lent

London


“You know, it’s true, I really don’t like him,” Crowley says sternly. “He’s, like— got this stuffy librarian vibe, and he’s fun to talk to, sure, but he’s not even gay! I’m not gonna waste my time on that. He’s not even my type, anyways. He wears sweater vests and shit. He owns a bookshop! We’re polar opposites, I tell you. I dunno how we get along at all in the first place. And what kind of question even is that? Would you snog him, who asks that? Who goes around thinking about snogging their friends? It’s ridiculous! It’s ridiculous, isn’t it?”

Vesper, who is wrapped around Crowley’s hand, flicks her tongue. Crowley watches her for a long moment, then lets his head fall back against the arm of his couch.

“Would you snog him?” he mutters. 


Sunday, March 25, 1990

Twenty-Sixth Day of Lent

London


Crowley walks into church, makes eye contact with Aziraphale, and immediately realizes the answer to Anathema’s question is yes.


Friday, March 30, 1990

Thirty-First Day of Lent

Soho, London


Crowley is intensely focused on drumming his fingers on his thigh, refusing to make eye contact with Aziraphale.

“Well, biscotti is fine, I’m not saying it’s bad, it’s just very… tough,” Aziraphale says.

“I usually soak it in my coffee,” Crowley says absently, thinking about how he’d probably kill for a cup of coffee, a biscotti and a smoke. 

“Oh, that does sound quite nice, actually,” Aziraphale says. “I’m a fan of raspberry crowns, myself.”

“Did you know raspberry crown is a species of wasp?” Crowley finds himself saying. “So, er, if you ever meet a genie, and your wish is for a lifetime supply of raspberry crowns, er… make sure you specify.”

Aziraphale laughs, and Crowley’s stomach is suddenly inhabited by a flock of butterflies, which he despises. “Where on Earth do you come up with things like that?”

“Dunno,” Crowley says. “I could go for a biscotti right about now, though.”

“It’s a bit late,” Aziraphale points out.

“Never too late for a biscotti,” Crowley argues. “And— Hell, I had this cider thing a couple weeks ago, I haven’t been able to stop thinking about it.”

“A cider thing?” Aziraphale prompts.

“Yeah, it was this hot… apple… cider,” Crowley says slowly, then immediately feels dumb. “I ran into this cafe while it was raining— hey, actually, I think it’s owned by, er, your two regulars.”

“Oh?”

“Yeah, leather jacket bloke— one who fancies you,” Crowley thinks vaguely about how that phrase could apply to him, now, as well, which he finds incredibly startling. “His name’s Jasper,” he tacks on quickly.

“He doesn’t fancy me,” Aziraphale says, flustered.

“Oh, and his friend, what was her name,” Crowley says, thinking hard. “It started with a C.”

“I do believe they’re in a relationship,” Aziraphale says.

“Oh, she’s the one who gave me the cider,” Crowley mutters to himself, not listening. “What was her name?”

“Started with a C, you said?”

“Yeah.”

“Crystal?”

“No…”

“Catherine? Cheryl?”

“No, it— oh! Camille! Her name was Camille!” Crowley exclaims, sitting up. “Her name was Camille, and she makes very good apple cider.”

Aziraphale sighs. “Honestly, I’m not much for cider, but you’re making me crave a hot cocoa.”

“I could take you to the cafe,” Crowley offers, then immediately panics because that sounds way too much like a proposition for a date. “I mean if— if you want. To go. I’m sure they serve cocoa.”

Aziraphale frowns. “It’s late,” he says. “Besides, I figure you’d like to go home and get out of your work clothes.”

“You never go out after sundown?” Crowley asks.

“I wouldn’t say so, no,” Aziraphale says.

“You live in Soho, and you never go out after sundown?” Crowley asks, incredulous.

“Do I look like the type of person who goes out after sundown?” Aziraphale asks skeptically.

“You live in Soho,” Crowley insists. “I don’t even like going out that much and I’ll let Anathema drag me around Soho.”

“Well, from how you’ve described her, Anathema sounds much more eccentric than me,” Aziraphale says.

“Look, I’m not asking you to go to a bar with me,” Crowley says, and isn’t that a thought. “I’m just saying let’s go to a cafe and get, you know, hot drinks. If they’re open. Going out at night is fun. Even if it’s just for cocoa.”

Aziraphale hums, skeptical. “You’re certain you wouldn’t rather go home and change out of your work clothes?”

Crowley looks at the khakis he’s wearing and sighs. “Let’s just go.”

Upon this visit, the cafe is much more lively. There’s a cluster of tables dragged together in the back where a large group of people of varying ages is huddled together, chatting loudly and regularly producing loud bursts of laughter. There are one or two scattered patrons around the rest of the cafe, but the group in the back is what really draws the eye.

Camille and Jasper are both hovering near them, listening and occasionally chiming in, but Camille looks over when the bell above the door rings, and her face lights up when she sees Crowley.

She slips away from the group. “Evening!” she says cheerfully. “Not getting rained on, tonight?”

“Thankfully, no,” Crowley says. “Just dragging this one out past his bed time.”

“Oh, stop,” Aziraphale says, and Camille’s smile tightens a little bit.

“I get that,” she says. “Madi just left, she has to be in bed by ten, otherwise she crashes.”

“What’s the occasion?” Aziraphale asks.

“Book club,” Camille says. “Jasper and I host, we meet roughly once a month, but most of them are in here pretty regularly.”

“Oh, how fun,” Aziraphale says, eyeing the bookshelves that line the back of the wall.

“What can I get for the two of you?” she asks, smiling warmly at Crowley specifically.

“Do you serve cocoa, dear girl?” Aziraphale asks, and Crowley and Camille both blink, startled, at the term of endearment.

“Er, yes,” she says with a smile. “All kinds. What do you fancy?”

They proceed into a rather lengthy conversation about hot cocoa, which bores Crowley quite quickly, so he takes to listening in on the book club conversations.

“Percy, I’m literally begging you to stop saying cursed things,” Jasper is saying.

“I will not be silenced,” Percy says triumphantly.

“The dog is the best character in the book, and I will stand by that,” agrees another member.

“Dave, you’re so right,” says the boy sitting next to him, their hands intertwined.

“Jacques, you’re only agreeing with him because he’s your boyfriend!” Jasper exclaims. “You haven’t even read the book!”

“And what did you want?”

“Huh?” Crowley asks, looking back at Camille. “Oh, oh— er, truthfully, I’ve been giving a lot of thought to that apple cider.”

She practically beams. “Have you really?”

“Yeah,” Crowley says. “Er, do you have biscotti?”

“We might have some left,” she says brightly.

“Then I will have an apple cider and a biscotti and a table as far away from those heathens as there is,” Crowley says, and she laughs a little too hard.

Aziraphale looks at him smugly once she disappears into the back. “I think she fancies you.”


Saturday, March 31, 1990

Thirty-Second Day of Lent

London


“What’s that look for?”

Crowley jumps, startled at Anathema’s sudden presence in the nursery. “How long have you been standing there?”

“Long enough,” Anathema says, “What’s got your head in the clouds? You were standing there with your mister like you’d seen a ghost.”

“I’m fine,” Crowley insists. “What do you need?”

“Yarrow seeds,” Anathema says simply. “But I’ll buy those after I figure out why you’re being weird.”

“I don’t wanna talk about it,” Crowley says, stepping around her and walking back towards the counter. “I’ll get you your yarrow seeds.”

“Hey, woah,” Anathema says, following him. “Did something happen?”

“Nothing happened, I’m not being weird,” Crowley insists, setting his plant mister down on the counter. “How many seeds do you need?”

“Zero. What happened?”

“Anathema,” Crowley hisses, “you’re gonna make fun of me.”

“Well, you should be used to that!” Anathema says. “Does it have to do with Aziraphale?”

Crowley groans, putting his head in his hands. “Yes.”

“Well, what happened?” 

“Yes.”

Anathema frowns. “What?”

“That’s my answer to your question,” Crowley says miserably. “Yes.”

“What? What question?” 

“The question you asked me at dinner.”

“Wh— OH!” Anathema exclaims. “Oh! Oh, you’re a fucking idiot, Anthony.”

“Make my day,” Crowley says, glaring at her.

“I knew you liked him,” Anathema says triumphantly.

“Well, it doesn’t matter, he’s not gay,” Crowley says quietly.

“I dunno, I think you’re pretty enough to turn someone,” Anathema assures him.

Crowley groans. “I hate you, I really do.”

“Love you, too,” Anathema says. “No, but seriously, what’s your plan?”

“There is no plan, Anathema,” Crowley says. “I’m just gonna…”

“Suffer in silence?” she guesses, unamused.

“Well, I don’t see many other options,” Crowley snaps. 

“I do!” Anathema says. “Here’s one: you ask him out, he says yes, you fall in love, you lose your virginity, you stop being so uptight all the time, et cetera, et cetera.”

“Oh, my God,” Crowley groans, blushing, as he slides out from behind the counter. “I hate you. How many fucking Yarrow seeds do you need?”

“No cussing on the clock, Anthony,” Anathema chastises, and he flips her off.

Chapter Text

Sunday, April 1, 1990

Thirty-Third Day of Lent

London


Anathema answers the phone when it rings a little after midnight, because telemarketers never call so late, and it can’t be very many other people.

“Hello?” she asks groggily.

“Anathema?” Crowley asks nervously, and she wakes up a little more.

“Anthony?” she asks. “Are you okay?”

“Anathema, I have a really important question for you,” Crowley says, and she’s almost certain he’s never sounded more nervous in his life.

“Okay, I—okay, Anthony, what’s wrong?” she asks. “Are you okay?”

“Anathema, is your refrigerator running?”

“I— what?”

“Anathema!” Crowley exclaims, and he sounds vaguely harrowed, which is incredibly startling. “Is your refrigerator running?!”

“Um!” she says, peering into the kitchen. “Yes?!”

Crowley sighs, sounding incredibly relieved. “Well,” he says slowly, “then you better go catch it.”

“Wh—” Anathema says, frazzled. “What?”

“April fools,” Crowley says, and she can practically hear his shit eating grin through the line before he hangs up.


Friday, April 6, 1990

Thirty-Eighth Day of Lent

Fourth Session

London


“I want it on the record I will not be drinking tonight,” Newt says very officially when he and Anathema arrive at Crowley’s flat. “Because I have a certain checkpoint I want to get to and if I start drinking we’re never going to finish this campaign.”

“It should be noted we are not required to abstain,” Anathema tacks on quickly, shoving a bottle of cheap wine into Crowley’s hands. “He says he’ll go on without us.”

“But you will be required to deal with the consequences for your drunken actions next session,” Newt says, sitting down on the couch.

“Sounds like a party,” Crowley admits. 

“We are literally a party!” Newt says, delighted. “Although please try not to get too drunk right away. I have a puzzle.”

“Gotcha,” Crowley says, setting the bottle down on the table. “Two wine glasses and a…?”

“Ginger ale if you have it,” Newt says happily.

“Well, nobody buys ginger ale, so pick something else,” Crowley says flatly.

Newt purses his lips. “We’re off to a great start.”


Saturday, April 7, 1990

Thirty-Ninth Day of Lent

Tadfield


“Anthony,” Rose calls from the porch. “You’ve been sitting in your car for almost ten minutes. What on earth are you doing?”

Crowley takes a deep breath and pockets his keys, opening his door and climbing out of the car. “Sorry,” he says. “Just… the inside of the house is going to smell like smoke, and I’m trying to psyche myself up.”

“Oh, dear,” Rose says, her expression softening. “I hadn’t thought of that.”

She watches him grab his bag and make his way up to the porch. “How have you been doing? Not smoking, and all that.”

“Quite miserably,” Crowley admits. “But, hey, six more days.”

Rose looks sadly for a moment. “Yes, six more days.”

She sniffs and sobers and turns back to the front door. “Well, come in, then. Mr. Tyler came around looking for you just the other day.”

“Did he really?” Crowley asks, pausing before following her inside to pop a piece of gum in his mouth. “Well, when Mr. Tyler comes looking, it’s never for any good reas— Jesus.”

Crowley stops just inside the doorway. “Fuck, I want a cigarette.”

“Anthony,” Rose snaps. “Language, please.”

Crowley shuts the door behind him, chewing his piece of gum harder as though it’s going to make him feel any better. “Sorry,” he says noncommittally. “It’s just… ngk.”

Rose softens. “It’s not the end of the world, Anthony, it’s just a smell. You’ll get used to it after an hour, you always do.”

“Yeah,” Crowley says vaguely. “Yeah. Yeah, er, hide yours, though. I’m… easily tempted.”

She gives him a stern look. “Hand me your bag and go see what Mr. Tyler wanted. I think it had something to do with the church garden. I’ll have everything neatly hidden away by the time you’re back.”

“Okay,” Crowley says absently, opening the front door behind him. “Church garden. Yeah, okay. Love you.”

“Love you, too,” Rose calls after him.


Sunday, April 8, 1990

Fortieth Day of Lent

Tadfield


Crowley pokes around in the garden after church, not that there’s much of anything to do without digging out tools. He makes a few threats and ties off a few loose ends, but today it simply feels like a collection of plants, and the Them don’t decide to host their session in the alleyway, so he heads back inside.

“Anthony?” Rose says tentatively from the couch. “Would you come sit a minute? I have something I need to talk to you about.”

Crowley is immediately alight with nerves. “What’s wrong?”

“Nothing is wrong, Anthony,” Rose says shortly. “Just… come sit.”

Crowley does so, settling on the side of the couch opposite her, watching her nervously. “What?”

Rose takes a deep breath, coughs a few times, then clears her throat. “It’s nothing you need to get all in a twist about, Anthony, it’s just… well, see, I thought… I thought I might take a trip, is all.”

“A trip?” Crowley asks. “A trip where?”

“A trip… elsewhere,” Rose says vaguely. “I’ve lived in Tadfield my whole life. I’ve only been to, what, London a handful of times. I’d like to go explore.”

“Explore where?” Crowley presses.

“I just want to go elsewhere,” Rose says. “I’m retired, I have the time.”

“Do you have the money?” Crowley asks.

“Anthony, I wouldn’t even be thinking about it if I didn’t,” Rose chides. “Don’t be silly, you know me.”

“But where are you thinking of going?” Crowley insists.

“Well, I thought… Vatican City, perhaps.”

“Vatican City,” Crowley repeats, appearing to be mentally calculating how far away that is. “But that’s… in Italy.”

“It’s it’s own country, actually,” Rose says. “And I know where it is. I might wander around Italy a bit, itself. I’ve always wanted to.”

“But…” Crowley hesitates. “…alone?”

“We’ve been through this, Anthony, I’m not fragile.”

“You’re sixty-four, mum, you’ve got osteoporosis, I just—”

“Worry,” Rose says, exasperated. “Yes, I know. It’s all you ever do. Worry all the time, for absolutely nothing! You know, I looked into it, and that anxiety drug is called Xanax, and I honestly think you need a prescription.”

“Mum,” Crowley says slowly. “You’re talking about… wandering around Italy. For… how long?”

“However long I like,” Rose says flippantly. “And maybe other places, too.”

“Other—?” Crowley asks, startled. “What other places?!”

“I’d like to see Notre Dame, I’d like to see Greece, I’d like to see Amsterdam,” Rose says. “There’s lots of places I’d like to see, I figure I can keep myself busy just wandering around and looking at whatever I want.”

“For how long?” Crowley presses.

“However long I want!” Rose snaps. “I just— God, Anthony, I’d be back before your birthday, what are you so worried about?”

“My birthday?!” Crowley asks. “Mum, my birthday—! My birthday is in October! How— that’s—! Mum! You’d miss Easter—!”

“I’d leave after Easter,” Rose assures him.

“Then you’d miss Divine Mercy Sunday! You’d miss Corpus Christi! The Assumption of Mary! And— and a bunch of other Sunday’s!”

“You can celebrate those on your own, Anthony, I don’t see why you need me around!”

“I like having you around!” Crowley says. “I— I like celebrating Holy Days with you, I like coming down to Tadfield—”

“Well, I’m sick of Tadfield, Anthony, I want to go somewhere new,” Rose says. She sounds somewhat exhausted, somewhat terrified. She presses forward. “I’m not going to be around all the time, Anthony, and you can’t always look after me. Sometimes I just need to wander. And I think it would… do you some good, as well.”

“Wh—” Crowley stutters, incredulous. “What does that even mean?”

“It means I already bought the ticket,” Rose snaps. “I’m leaving the weekend after Easter, and I’m coming back whenever I feel like it.”

Crowley blinks, staring at her with wide eyes, and then he takes a deep breath. “Okay,” he says slowly. “Okay, that’s… okay. Fine. Fine. Okay. Fine. You—”

He puts his head in his hands, makes a frustrated noise, then looks back at her, obviously trying not to cry. “Okay.”

“Anthony,” Rose says softly. “It’s not the end of the world. I’ll call.”

“You never call,” Crowley says tightly.

“I will call,” Rose says. “And your life will move on perfectly fine without me here in Tadfield. You’ll see.”

Crowley tightens his jaw, then lets the tension go. “Okay.”

Rose takes a deep breath, coughs, then says, “There’s one more thing.”

“Oh?” Crowley asks absently.

Rose nods. “You’re not going to like it.”

“Oh?” Crowley repeats, more attentive now. “What?”

“You… not smoking…” Rose says slowly. “I… I’d like it if you kept it up at least until I got back.”

“What?!” Crowley asks. “Why?! I— I haven’t relapsed once, mum, I—!”

“And that’s good!” Rose says. “Anthony, that’s good. Smoking isn’t good for you.”

“You smoke!” 

Rose grits her teeth. “That I do.” 

“So why do you want me to stop?!” Crowley insists.

“Because,” Rose says, “you’re young yet, Anthony. You’re unmarried, you’re not seeing anybody, and you’ve got your Raynaud’s and— and God forbid something happen to you before you get a chance to live your life. I want you to fall in love, Anthony! I want you to have a family!”

“You’re my family,” Crowley says quietly.

“Beyond me,” Rose says. “I want you to have a life. I want you to live for something more than gardening and visiting me on Holy Days and seeing your friends once a month, and I want you to live long.”

“Mum—”

“Can you at least promise me you’ll try?” she asks gently. “Promise me you’ll try to quit? At least for the time being?”

Crowley hesitates for a long moment. “Is there something you’re not telling me?”

“No,” Rose says kindly. “I just love you, Anthony. You’re my son, I want to see you smile.”

Crowley takes a deep breath. “Okay,” he says quietly. “I promise.”


Thursday, April 12, 1990

Forty-Fourth Day of Lent

Holy Thursday

Tadfield


“Mr. Crowley?”

Crowley looks over his shoulder, his eyes landing on Pepper and Brian, who’re perched on their bikes. 

“Hi,” Crowley says, turning around all the way to face them, peeling his attention away from the particular bush he’d been bullying. 

“What are you doing here?” Brian asks. “It’s Thursday.”

“That it is,” Crowley says. “I’m in town for Easter.”

“But Easter isn’t until Sunday,” Pepper points out.

“Well, it’s Holy Thursday,” Crowley tells her.

She wrinkles her nose. “That’s not true. It’s just a regular old Thursday.”

“Why’re you at the church?” Brian asks. 

“It’s getting warm, and they’d like me to keep making sure the landscaping doesn’t look ugly,” Crowley explains.

“Mr. Crowley is a gardener, Brian,” Pepper says, as though it were the most obvious thing in the world. “S’his job.”

“Isn’t gardening a girly job?” Brian asks, and Pepper gives him a look that suggests she’s going to hop off her bike and teach him a lesson or five.

“Gardening’s my job,” Crowley says, vaguely proud. “You can do whatever you want. Jobs don’t have genders.”

Brian opens his mouth to argue, then shuts it abruptly. “Alright.”


Friday, April 13, 1990

Forty-Fifth Day of Lent

Good Friday

Tadfield


The Them, enticed by the steadily warming weather, take to the streets on their bikes to be general menaces, much to the annoyance of a certain Chairman of the Resident’s Association.

“Their parents ought to learn how to keep them under control,” Mr. Tyler says sternly, and Crowley sighs and resists the urge to tell him to shut up. 

“They’re just kids,” he reasons. “They’ll grow out of it. I used to be like that.”

“Well,” Mr. Tyler says, looking at him skeptically. “You’ve changed quite a lot since you were a child.”

Crowley looks over to the Them, who appear to be making their way to the quarry, shouting at each other incoherently. He wonders vaguely how he ever managed to have a crush on the man standing on the other side of the fence. 

“I hear Rose is taking a trip,” Mr. Tyler says, and Crowley looks back at him.

“Yeah,” he says shortly.

Mr. Tyler waits for a beat. “Where to?”

“All around,” Crowley says vaguely. “Italy and France and Greece… she wants to see Amsterdam.”

“Amsterdam?” Mr. Tyler asks, and hint of judgement in his voice. “I don’t know about Amsterdam.”

Crowley looks down at the dog sitting at Mr. Tyler’s feet on the other side of the fence. The dog looks back up at him. Crowley could, understandably, detect a hint of misery in its eyes.

“Well, I got to thinking about it,” Mr. Tyler says smartly. “And since Rose is going to be traveling for most of the summer, I think we ought to pick someone else to maintain the church garden.”

“What?” Crowley asks, frowning. “Why? My mum doesn’t maintain the garden, I do.”

“Well, you won’t have much of a reason to come into town if you’re not visiting her, I wouldn’t think,” Mr. Tyler says.

“I’ll come into town for the garden,” Crowley assures him. “I have my own garden, too. It’s not a long drive.”

Mr. Tyler looks very skeptical. He opens his mouth to say something, but then there’s a loud, childish scream from the direction of the quarry, and he turns his attention to the noise instead. “Those children,” he says, frowning intensely. “That lot is nothing but trouble, I tell you. This summer is going to be the worst yet, with them running around.”

“The Them,” Crowley says helpfully.

“Excuse me?”

“The Them. S’their gang name. Reckon it’s a proper noun, deserves to be capitalized.”

Mr. Tyler makes a very frustrated face. “I don’t like that one bit, I must say.”

“Ah, well,” Crowley says, very much bored with the conversation. “I best be heading in. My mum’ll be wanting me.”

Mr. Tyler sighs. “Alright,” he says, tugging the leash; the dog stands at attention. “I’ll be seeing you at mass, Anthony.”

“Yeah,” Crowley says vaguely, turning away. “Mass.”

“Come along, Shutzi,” he hears Mr. Tyler say from behind him, and Crowley pauses on the porch and takes a long moment to question his eight year old self's taste.


Saturday, April 14, 1990

Forty-Sixth Day of Lent

Holy Saturday

Tadfield


The Them’s chosen gathering place in the morning is the alleyway, which provides for endless entertainment for Rose and Crowley while they have their coffee.

“What on earth is he on about?” Rose asks, smiling into her mug as she listens to Adam’s story. “Atlantis?”

“He’s a storyteller,” Crowley mutters. “Last session I listened in on he went on and on about UFOs and government agents and the like.”

“He’s funny,” Rose says, and Crowley makes a small noise in agreement and they both take a sip of their coffees. 

Adam’s story goes on for quite some time, long after Rose and Crowley have each finished their coffee, coming to an abrupt halt when Rose breaks into a coughing fit.

“Are you alright?” Crowley asks, as the Them quiet suddenly and then pop up to peer over the fence.

“Fine,” Rose says hoarsely. 

“You have spectators now,” Crowley says, pointing over her shoulder, and Rose turns to look at the Them with a gentle smile.

“Hallo,” she says. “Adam, I love your story.”

“Thank you,” Adam says confidently. “How long have you been listening?”

“Since you biked over,” Rose says. “You’re quite the storyteller, I must say.”

Adam sinks down behind the fence a bit. “Thank you.”

“Your garden looks nice, Mr. Crowley,” Wensleydale says. 

Crowley sits up a little straighter. “Thanks. It’ll look better the closer to summer we get.”

“I can’t wait for summer,” Brian groans, leaning back on the fence, and then losing his grip and falling back into the alleyway.

Rose and Crowley both start a bit. “Are you alright?” Rose calls.

Brian pops back up on the fence. “Fine!”

“Ms. Crowley, is it true you’re going to Italy?” Wensleydale asks.

Rose gives Crowley a look; he shrugs. “I didn’t say anything to them.”

She looks back at the Them. “Yes, it is. I’m leaving next weekend.”

“Have fun!” Wensleydale wishes her.

“Watch out for vampires,” Brian says wisely.

“That’s not Italy, that’s Rome!” Pepper exclaims. “There’s too many churches and garlic in Italy for vampires to live there!”

“No, you mean Romania,” Wensleydale says smartly. “Rome isn’t a country anymore!”

“Why not?” Brian asks.

“It fell!” Wensleydale says.

“How does a country fall?” Pepper asks.

“It sinks down into the ocean, like Atlantis!” Adam exclaims. “That’s why they had to dig Rome up out of the ground to see all the old buildings!”

The Them nod in agreement, and Rose laughs. “You lot are very clever,” she looks at Crowley, “wouldn’t you say?”

“I would say,” Crowley agrees. “You should hear their theories when it comes to UFOs.”


Sunday, April 15, 1990

Easter

Tadfield


Crowley hears a sniffle while he’s tying his tie, but doesn’t think much of it until he hears the second and the third. He pauses, turning away from the mirror on the wall and looking down the hall, where Rose is leaning against the wall, teary eyed.

“Mum,” Crowley says immediately, abandoning the mirror. “What’s—?”

“Nothing’s wrong, Anthony,” Rose says quickly.

“You’re crying,” Crowley points out, as though she wasn’t aware.

“I’m just—” she pauses, taking a deep breath, then coughs a few times. “You just look nice, all dressed up, is all, and it just… reminds me.”

“Reminds you of what?” Crowley asks.

“Your father, I suppose, God rest him,” Rose says quietly. “You just look handsome, is all, and I love you. I’m happy you’re my son, do you know that?”

Crowley suddenly feels as though he’s about to cry, as well. “I suppose.”

“Don’t suppose,” Rose says. “Know. I’m so happy you’re my son. I’m very proud of you.”

“I haven’t done anything,” Crowley points out weakly.

“You’ve done plenty, Anthony, look in a mirror,” Rose says gently. “I know it took me a long time to come around, and I know it took me a long time to accept you, but I do see you now. You’re my son, and I love you, and I’m so proud of you.”

“Mum,” Crowley says quietly. “You’re going to make me cry.”

“Well, cry, then, because I’m telling it to you,” Rose says. “I want you to know these things. I’m happy you’re my son , do you know that?”

“I do now,” Crowley says weakly.

“Well then know it now,” Rose says. “And know it indefinitely. And know that nothing will change that.”

Crowley thinks about the gay thing, about the conversation he hasn’t had with her about it. “Nothing?”

“Nothing,” Rose assures him, taking his abandoned, untied tie and fixing it for him, and then using it to pull him into a proper hug, something they haven’t done in some many years.


Friday, April 20, 1990

London


“Admittedly, it does feel much more correct to have a conversation with you and a glass of wine,” Aziraphale says cheerfully. He takes a sip, then asks, “How was your Easter day cigarette?”

“Didn’t get it,” Crowley says lowly. “My mum asked me to abstain.”

“She’d like you to quit?” Aziraphale guesses.

“At least for another few months,” Crowley explains. “She’s going exploring.”

“Oh?” 

“Around Europe. She’s retired. Says she’s bored of Tadfield and wants to look around.”

“Well, good on her,” Aziraphale says. “I wish her all the best. When is she leaving?”

“I’m driving her to the airport tomorrow,” Crowley says. “I’m dreading it, truthfully. I wish she’d change her mind, I don’t like her on her own.”

“How old is she?”

“Sixty-four.”

“Oh. How old are you?”

“Twenty-nine.”

Aziraphale does the mental math. “Oh, well,” he says. “I’m certain she’ll be fine. From how you’ve described her, she seems very capable.”

“She is,” Crowley says immediately. “I just… worry. Anyways, she asked me to lay off smoking until she gets back.”

“Are you going to?” Aziraphale asks.

“I mean, I’ll try,” Crowley says. “It’s steadily becoming easier, but it’s still incredibly tempting. And there’s no religious reason why I should abstain, now.”

“Well, respect thy mother and father, and whatnot,” Aziraphale says vaguely. 

“Yeah,” Crowley says absently. “But you are right. Feels more correct to talk and drink wine.”

Aziraphale smiles at him, and Crowley’s stomach ties itself in a knot, so he takes a hurried sip of his wine. 

“So, listen,” Crowley says. “I had this, er, proposition?”

“Oh?” Aziraphale asks.

“Well, it’s not really a proposition, I guess,” Crowley continues. “It’s—er—well, I don’t really know what I’d call it…”

“An arrangement?” Aziraphale suggests.

“Sure!” Crowley says. “An— an arrangement. Okay. Well, my mum’s gonna be gone until, like… October.”

“Goodness,” Aziraphale says softly.

“I know!” Crowley exclaims. “It’s— that’s too long to be wandering around, I’m just saying. It’s —ugh, anyways. You’re my only friend who’s Christian—”

“Am I really?” Aziraphale asks.

“Yeah, Anathema’s a witch and Newt’s an atheist,” Crowley explains.

“She’s an actual witch?” Aziraphale asks, his eyebrows raised.

“Yeah, she like, charts things and uses herbal remedies and stuff,” Crowley says vaguely. “She’s nice, though, I mean she doesn’t, like, curse people or anything. I mean I’m sure she could. She’s —she’s really a witch. That’s, like, her belief system.”

“Is it?” Aziraphale asks, and he sounds mildly alarmed.

“Yes,” Crowley says. “Seriously. She can read minds, if she tries really hard.”

“Can she really?” 

“Yes. I’m totally serious.”

“Oh.”

“But I’m getting off topic,” Crowley says. “And probably scaring you off in the meantime— listen, I, er… this sounds like a dumb proposition, but do you, er, celebrate the Holy Days?”

“Most,” Aziraphale says. “I mean, I go to church. I rarely do anything special.”

“Me, either,” Crowley says. “So I was wondering if you’d be willing to celebrate them together? Because my… er, I’d feel stupid doing it alone.”

“Sure,” Aziraphale says happily, which surprises Crowley. He thought it’d take much more convincing than that.

“Really?” he asks, forcefully ignoring the skittering of his heart. 

“Yes, it sounds rather fun,” Aziraphale says. “I celebrate most things alone. Or I spend them at the church, with Gabriel and Father Malachi, and the lot, and it can get rather tiring, if I’m being honest. Uriel is nice, fun to chat with, but she and Raphael are… hn. Oh, don’t go around telling anyone I said that.”

“Wouldn’t dream of it,” Crowley assures him. “Honestly, you seem like the nicest person there.”

“Oh, well— no, I wouldn’t say that,” Aziraphale says, looking away. “Gabriel is very… he’s much more dedicated than me.”

“I didn’t say dedicated,” Crowley says. “I said nice.”

“Oh,” Aziraphale says. “Well, I… Gabriel is nice, I think.”

“You’re nicer,” Crowley says, before he can stop himself.

“Oh, well,” Aziraphale says with a small smile. “Thank you, Mr. Crowley.”


Saturday, April 21, 1990

Tadfield


Crowley is quiet for most of the car ride, incredibly disgruntled over the fact that his final attempt to persuade Rose to stay home failed. She sits rather quietly in the passenger seat, switching between staring out the window and staring at her son. 

“You really do look like him,” she says quietly.

Crowley’s eyes flicker over to her. “Like who?”

“Your father,” Rose says quietly. “Remind me so much of him driving this old thing around. Did you know this car was built the year he was born?”

“1926?” Crowley asks, and she nods. “I didn’t know that.”

There’s a lapse of silence.

“Odd to think about,” Crowley says quietly. “Sounds like so long ago.”

“I think his father bought it,” she mutters, “and passed it on to him. And, you know, now you.”

“Yeah,” Crowley says. “Now me.”

“You haven’t strayed from the tradition of maintaining it,” Rose says quietly.

“I’m very particular about her,” Crowley says. 

“I know,” Rose says. “It’s… nice. It’s… oh, I don’t know. I’m getting rather sentimental.”

Crowley looks at her oddly. “Are you sure—?”

“I’m just so glad you learned how to drive it,” Rose says quickly. “I’m so glad Mr. Young knew how to drive stick shift, God knows I have no idea how to.”

“Yeah…” Crowley says slowly, recalling memories he’s not particularly fond of of learning how to drive his car with Adam’s father, who had not yet been Adam’s father at the time. There had been a rather lot of arguing back and forth with one another and not much driving at all.

Crowley follows Rose as far as he can at the airport, helping her even as she insists she’ll be fine on her own. When they arrive at an impasse, Crowley stands silently for a long moment, his arms crossed, a few paces away from Rose.

“Anthony,” she says. “You have to stop worrying, now. I’m going to call.”

“If something happens, you have to tell me right away,” Crowley insists. “I don’t want you to keep it a secret.”

Rose closes her eyes. “Anthony—”

“If something happens,” Crowley presses, “you have to tell me.”

Rose opens her eyes and looks at him sadly. “I will.”

Crowley lets out a breath. “Okay,” he says. “Okay… have… fun.”

“Oh, I can tell you really mean that,” Rose teases.

“I do,” Crowley promises. “I’m just… gonna worry. But I do hope everything goes well.”

“Everything will,” Rose says with a gentle smile. “God always takes care of me, Anthony, you know that.”

“Yeah,” Crowley says quietly. “I love you.”

“I love you, too,” Rose says. 

She makes absolutely no move to hug him. Crowley doesn’t uncross his arms, not sure he’d be able to handle the rejection if he tried to touch her and she moved away.

“Anthony,” Rose says. “I need to board.”

“Right,” Crowley says, putting his hands in his pockets. “Have a safe flight.”

“Alright,” Rose returns, because she doesn’t have much say in the matter, but she’s certain Crowley’s already mulled that over hundreds of times. “Ciao.”

“Oh,” Crowley says. “Right. Ciao.”


Sunday, April 22, 1990

Divine Mercy Sunday

London


Aziraphale pulls Crowley to the side after mass, hissing in his ear: “I’m going to use you as my excuse for something.”

“Oh?” Crowley asks, blushing over being pulled close even as Aziraphale let’s go of his arm. 

“Aziraphale!” Gabriel says, appearing by their side so suddenly it makes Crowley jump. “I know someone who’d like to have a conversation with you.”

“And I would love to have such a conversation, I would,” Aziraphale assures him, and Crowley can sense just how much of a lie it is. “Unfortunately, Mr. Crowley and I have plans.”

Gabriel blinks. “You and Mr. Crowley have plans?”

“That is what he said, yes,” Crowley finds himself saying. 

Gabriel looks between the two of them. “May I ask what the occasion is?”

“Divine Mercy Sunday,” Crowley says immediately. “Don’t tell me you forgot.”

“I did not forget,” Gabriel snaps, then seems to catch himself and slips back into his usual calm demeanor. “I didn’t forget,” he repeats, this time with a smile. “I’m merely surprised. It’s not exactly widely celebrated.”

“Well, I celebrate all the Holy Days,” Cowley says matter-of-factly.

“With his mum,” Aziraphale adds.

“But she’s traveling,” Crowley continues.

“Out of the country,” Aziraphale supplies.

“So Aziraphale is celebrating with me,” Crowley finishes. “Very kind of him, if you ask me.”

Gabriel nods. “Yes, very kind,” he says slowly. “Well, I will let Father Malachi know that you are busy… celebrating. And I’m sure he will be interested in having that conversation with you later this week.”

“I’m equally as interested, I assure you,” Aziraphale says with a smile.

Crowley waits until they’ve left the church, before he says: “You’re a very convincing liar, Aziraphale, but not enough to fool me.”

“Oh, really?” Aziraphale asks, somewhat nervously. 

“I’m sure he bought it, though,” Crowley says. “Be hard not to.”

“I’m sure he suspects something,” Aziraphale says, and he sounds twice as nervous as he did before.

“What’s this mysterious conversation you’re looking to avoid?” Crowley asks, unlocking his car.

Aziraphale offers him a smile. “You’re very kind, Mr. Crowley, and very easy to talk to, but I’d prefer not to discuss it.”

Crowley blinks, mildly surprised by his response and endlessly curious. “Alright.”


Friday, April 27, 1990

London


“Good morning!”

“Jesus!” Crowley shouts, starting as soon as he opens to door to leave his flat only to find Anathema on the other side, grinning. He clears his throat, shoving his hands in his pockets to avoid the fact that his instinct is to put a hand over his heart like an old woman when he gets scared. “What are you doing?”

She holds a bouquet of small yellow flowers out for him. “Delivery.”

“Oh,” Crowley says, softening, but only by a little; he takes the flowers gratefully. “Thank you. I’ll put them in water.”

“Off to work?” Anathema asks, eyeing his choice in pants.

“That is what adults do, yeah,” Crowley says, slipping into the kitchen and grabbing a small vase from under the sink. “I just… love wearing khakis so much.”

“I was about to say,” Anathema says, grinning. “How goes the no smoking?”

“Still pretty miserably,” Crowley says. “I’ve been getting headaches. The week has been hell, but work is picking up again since it’s getting warmer, at least. I need a distraction.”

“Heard from your mum?” she asks.

“Just last night,” Crowley says. He sets the St. John’s Wort by a window between two long suffering house plants. “She is in Italy.”

“God, I wish that were me,” Anathema says, grinning. “Alrighty, well, I need to get to the shop. Just popping in to check on my favorite optimist.”

“Thank you,” Crowley says bitterly, picking up his keys again and slipping out into the hallway with her. “And don’t say that sarcastically, I am an optimist.”


Saturday, April 28, 1990

London


“Anathema?” Newt asks, tapping his fingers on her bare shoulder. She hums against him, indicating that she’s listening but she’s sleepy. Newt presses forward. “Do you think Anthony really fancies that guy?”

“Who, Aziraphale?” Anathema asks, shifting so she can talk without being muffled. “I think so. He says he does. Er, he says he wants to snog him, at least, but knowing Anthony that probably means he likes him quite a lot.”

“Is he nice, do you know?” Newt asks.

“Aziraphale?” Anathema asks; Newt hums affirmative. “Dunno. I’ve never met him. I can’t see Anthony liking anyone who’s not nice, though.”

“Be nice if they become a couple,” Newt says.

“Yeah,” Anathema says, with a slight smile. “Anthony seems really lonely.”

Newt is quiet for a long time. “He seems less lonely.”

Anathema furrows her brow. “How do you mean?”

“He just seems less lonely,” Newt says simply. “I mean, he’s obviously stressed because his mum is out of the country, and he’s trying to quit smoking and all that, but he just seems… less lonely.”

“Less lonely,” Anathema mutters.

“Less lonely,” Newt repeats, less for emphasis and more for the echolalia. “Less lonely…”

“You’re right…” Anathema says, which isn’t something she says often.

“We should meet him,” Newt says vaguely. “Not now, obviously. We’re currently naked. But I think we should meet him at a later date.”

“Doubt Anthony will ever let that happen,” Anathema mutters. 

“You’ve never let that stop you,” Newt points out, and she grins wickedly into his shoulder.


Sunday, April 29, 1990

London


“Mr. Crowley.”

Gabriel’s voice is sterner than Crowley has ever heard it, and he glances over his shoulder. He’s been in the garden all afternoon, getting some actual planting done, and he’s just about finished and wondering why he needs to be bothered.

“Er, hi,” Crowley says, standing up; his knees crack loudly when he does so, and he winces slightly.

Gabriel raises his eyebrows. “Alright?”

“Fine,” Crowley assures him. “Is something wrong?”

“Hopefully not,” Gabriel says, with a sharp smile. “I’m just wondering… how did you and Aziraphale celebrate Divine Mercy Sunday?”

“Oh,” Crowley says, frowning a little. “Er, well, there’s this cafe near the nursery I work at that—”

“Mr. Crowley, if I may be blunt,” Gabriel says suddenly, “I’d like to know the nature of your relationship.”

“We’re friends,” Crowley says immediately, suddenly extremely nervous. He recalls with a sudden fervency Aziraphale’s words: I would be wary to share details with anyone else, if I were you. Especially Gabriel.

He presses forward. “What would make you assume otherwise?”

“It’s just that,” Gabriel says, “I wouldn’t say friends normally celebrate Holy Days together, is all.”

“Well, we go to the same church, I don’t see why we can’t celebrate things,” Crowley says defensively. “I told you, I normally celebrate with my mum, but she’s out of the country. Aziraphale is my only Catholic friend. I didn’t want to skip celebrating it, I would’ve felt bad.”

“I see,” Gabriel says. “Well, I would just… hm… Mr. Crowley, may I speak candidly?”

“I’m begging you to,” Crowley says dryly.

Gabriel presses his lips into a thin line. “Aziraphale has… a history.”

“A history of what?” Crowley asks, ignoring the feeling of his heart crawling into his throat.

“A history of… a certain thought process—”

“Whatever happened to speaking candidly?”

Gabriel narrows his eyes. “Sodomy.”

Crowley is suddenly sick to his stomach, and angry to boot. “I beg your pardon?”

“Aziraphale has, in the past, been tempted by the idea of sodomy,” Gabriel says.

“How do you know?” Crowley asks skeptically.

“Heard it around.”

Crowley thinks about Aziraphale’s reaction to his stance on confession. “Heard it from who?”

“Does it matter?” Gabriel asks. “What matters is he used to find the idea enticing, and he still might, and I just thought you should be aware.”

Crowley wishes he were anywhere in the world but here, in the garden, having this conversation. Gabriel continues. “Have you noticed anything?”

“No,” Crowley says quickly; and then, before he can stop himself, he continues. “In fact I would say I’ve noticed quite the opposite. I was in his shop with him just about a month ago and there was a lad in there I thought just might fancy him, and when I pointed it out he got very, er, agitated, and informed me that he was not, er. Gay.”

He hates how the word feels so dirty as it drips from his mouth.

Gabriel is pensive for a moment. “Do you believe him?”

Does he? “Yes.”

Gabriel examines him closely, and for the first time in many years Crowley feels himself panic about whether or not he’s passing. Finally, Gabriel lets out a little sigh, and says, “Alright then.”

“Alright then?” Crowley echoes. “Is that all?”

“Is there more?” Gabriel asks, pausing as he turns away.

Crowley bites his tongue. “No.”

Gabriel offers him a smile. “The garden looks wonderful, Mr. Crowley. I’m eager to see the finished product.”

Crowley is left alone, with his stomach in disgusted knots and absolutely no desire to gift something as beautiful as a garden to such a place.

Chapter Text

Friday, May 4, 1990

Fifth Session

London


Anathema decides that having a session where all three of them are sober might be a good idea, considering Agnes nearly died in their last session and that’s not a risk she’s willing to take. 

“I don’t see why you’re so twisted up,” Crowley says. “Whenever my guy dies I just throw a new outfit on him and start with fresh stats.”

“Which isn’t how you’re supposed to play the game, by the way,” Newt says, somewhat bitterly.

“Agnes has gotten me through five campaigns,” Anathema says indignantly. “She’s so powerful at this point I wouldn’t be surprised if she could see the future with no reservations. James dies once a session.”

“He does not,” Crowley says. “It’s not even like he dies, anyways! It’s like he— it’s like his body gets, like, discorporated, and then he just comes back later.”

“Which isn’t how you’re supposed to play the game, by the way,” Newt says again, very bitterly.

“Well, if you don’t like how I play, you’d hate listening in on one of Adam’s campaigns,” Crowley says. “He just sits there and monologues for the most part. No puzzles. Battles sometimes, but nothing formal. They play with two six-sided dice.”

Anathema laughs. “Well they’re trying, I’ll give them that.”

“Honestly, they sound like they play as bad as you,” Newt says to Crowley, though the bitterness has evaporated from his tone.

“Thank you,” Crowley says triumphantly. “I got us through two battles tonight, though, so I wouldn’t call myself bad.”

“You died,” Anathema says flatly.

“In a noble sacrifice to keep Agnes alive,” Crowley counters. “You’re welcome.”

“Well, at least we made decent progress,” Newt says, shutting his notebook with a satisfied air. “Even if James will never have decent stats because he keeps getting, er, discorporated.”


Saturday, May 5, 1990

London


“Are you alright?”

Crowley starts slightly, being jerked out of his thoughts. Camille is standing a few paces away from the table he picked out in the corner, away from the buzz of the rest of the cafe. She smiles gently at him. “You looked quite distressed.”

“Oh, no,” Crowley assures her, looking back down at his cider. “I was just… thinking.”

He takes a sip of his drink, quickly realizes it’s gone cold, spits it back into the mug and sets it back down. “Hn.”

Camille frowns. “Alright?”

“Fine,” Crowley says. “S’just cold.”

“Oh,” she says, sounding vaguely distressed. “Would you like a fresh one?”

“No, thanks.”

“Are you sure?” she asks helpfully. “On the house.”

“I’m fine, thanks,” Crowley says, and she seems to take the hint and leaves him to himself.

Crowley goes back to thinking; he doesn’t necessarily want to go to church tomorrow, but it’d probably be suspicious if he didn’t show up after his conversation with Gabriel. He hates that he has to worry about looking suspicious, he should feel safe at a church, his church, of all places, but he supposes it’s not really his church. He doesn’t care for it much anymore.

Still, though, he can’t just disappear. He has to at least finish out the garden, he’s obligated to do that. And he worries if he stops going to that church in particular, he’ll stop being able to see Aziraphale, which is stupid, because he sees him outside of church all the time, anyway. And, yet, he worries. He worries about everything, and he wants to stop worrying; wants to stop worrying about Rose, who’s in Greece now; wants to stop worrying about how badly he wants a cigarette; wants to stop worrying about religion and sexuality and gender; wants to stop worrying like he’s a seventeen year old about to get caught and expelled.

The light on his answering machine is blinking when Crowley gets back to his flat, and he’s entertained by a very lengthy message about that Adam Young, that little menace! crashing his bike into the landscaping in front of the church and ripping it all up! Dirt and plants and flowers all over everything! 

Crowley laughs a little bit at the idea of Adam, covered in dirt out front of the church, both because he must’ve been a sight and because it reminds him much of himself at that age. Nevertheless, he has an excuse, now, and calls Mr. Tyler back assuring him that yes, yes, I listened to the entirety of the message, and yes, yes, I can be there first thing in the morning, and yes, yes, the church lawn shouldn’t look like that, I’ll fix it.

Crowley hangs up as quickly as he can, which isn’t quick at all because Mr. Tyler can complain for quite a long time. 


Sunday, May 6, 1990

Tadfield


Crowley pretends not to notice Adam watching him, but he finally relents when he hears Pepper ride up on her bike and ask, “Is he cleaning up your wreck?”

“I am,” Crowley says, loud enough for them to both hear him; they turn their heads to him with wide eyes. Crowley sits back in the grass, stretching his legs and looking over at them. “Care to tell me how you managed this?”

“Brian bet he couldn’t ride without his hands,” Pepper says confidently. “And Adam said he could but only on the church walkway because it’s smoother than the road so he’d have better control.”

The rest of what happened is fairly self explanatory, based on the trail through the grass leading to the landscaping that Crowley is currently attempting to resurrect.

“Did you have better control, Adam?” he asks.

Adam is quiet for a moment. “Not quite.”

Crowley hums disapprovingly. “Next time you have to help me replant.”

“I won’t crash next time,” Adam says confidently. Pepper shoves him rather hard.

“You better not crash at all,” she says smartly. “My birthday party is next weekend and if you get grounded again and can’t come I will denounce your friendship.”

“Oh, no you won’t,” Adam says, but he only sounds about half sure of his statement.

“When’s your birthday, Pepper?” Crowley asks.

“Next Saturday!” Pepper tells him happily. “I’m turning eleven!”

She pauses very abruptly, as though she’s trying to decide whether it would be a good idea to invite him. Crowley decides to dissuade her from that idea. “Well, happy early birthday. I hope you have a wonderful party.”

“Thank you!” she says happily, beaming. 


Friday, May 11, 1990

London


“Anthony?” Newt asks. “I’m at work, I’m not supposed to take personal calls.”

“I know,” Crowley says. “But I’m also at work, so it’s even.”

“Anthony.”

“I just have one quick question and I’ll leave you be!” Crowley promises. “Where would a good place to buy dice be?”

“Dice?”

“Yeah, dice. For Dungeons and Dragons.”

“You’re calling about dice?”

“Yeah. Like, cool looking dice.”

“Why do you need dice?”

“It’s— not important. Just give me a store name, I’ll write it down and leave you alone.”

Newt takes a deep breath, lists four stores very quickly, and hangs up.


Saturday, May 12, 1990

Pepper’s Birthday

Tadfield


Around three, Crowley panics about having to go to church again, which is how he winds up in Tadfield. He can’t spend too much time inside the house, the smell giving him far too much of a headache, and nobody around to make sure he doesn’t go rooting around for a cigarette, so around the time the sun starts to go down, Crowley finds himself sitting on the back porch steps quietly admiring his garden. 

He gets to his feet rather quickly when the Them come pedaling through the alleyway rather suddenly, shouting over each other about where on Earth they should be going.

“Let’s do the pond!” Adam declares, in the way Adam declares things.

“It’s my birthday, so I get to pick!” Pepper exclaims. “Quarry!”

“No, pond!” Brian insists. “Pond! I want to cool off! I—”

Crowley opens the back gate just as the Them come whizzing around the corner. “Hey—”

The Them come skittering to a halt so fast, Wensleydale topples off his bike. Crowley winces. “Are you alright?”

Wensleydale places his glasses back on upside down. “Fine,” he says, mildly dazed. 

“Hi, Mr. Crowley,” Pepper says, out of breath from riding as fast as she was.

Crowley looks over at her and raises his eyebrows. “New bike?”

She huffs angrily. “Yeah. S’not the one I wanted, though.”

“It’s a nice bike,” Crowley offers helpfully.

“It’s light blue,” Pepper says bitterly. “With a basket. It’s a girls bike!”

“You are a girl!” Brian points out.

“That’s sexism,” Pepper says, and Crowley fails to keep himself from laughing. She looks at him sharply. “What?!”

“Nothing,” Crowley says quickly, trying and failing to wipe the grin off his face. “Nothing, I— I have a gift for you.”

The Them all react to his statement, straightening up and watching him intently with wide eyes as he reaches into his pocket and pulls out a small baggie.

“Here,” he says, handing it to her; it contains seven dice that are a deep red, the numbers painted in a gold color. “Some proper dice. For your sessions.”

She rips the baggie open and dumps them out into her hand, peering down at them with wide eyes. “Cor!” she says excitedly, practically vibrating. “I love them! They’re so cool! They look like they’re on fire or something!”

She looks up at him, smiling wide enough for him to see she’s recently lost a molar. “Thank you, Mr. Crowley!”

Crowley shrugs, filled with the sort of good feeling you experience when you help a child experience pure, unadulterated happiness. “Happy birthday.”

“Thank you!” Pepper exclaims again. She hesitates, then dumps the dice into the basket on her bike.

“There you go,” Crowley says helpfully. “Upside to everything.”

“My birthday is August twenty-third,” Adam says matter-of-factly. “Just in case you were wondering.”

Crowley nods. “I’ll keep it in mind.”


Sunday, May 13, 1990

Tadfield


Wensleydale rides his bike up next to Crowley as he’s walking back home from church. 

“Why are you in town?” he asks. “It’s not a Holy Day. I checked.”

“Pepper’s birthday,” Crowley says simply.

“You wouldn’t come all the way into town for Pepper’s birthday,” Wensleydale says. “You weren’t even invited to her party. You’re a grown up.”

“I had a present for her,” Crowley points out. “And I needed to check on my garden.”

“And the church garden,” Wensleydale agrees smartly. “But you only come down for Holy Days.”

“That’s not true,” Crowley says. “I come down to check on my mum.”

“But your mum’s not here,” Wensleydale says. “So why did you come down?”

Crowley sighs. “I wanted to go to church.”

“They must have churches in London,” Wensleydale insists.

“They do,” Crowley assures him. “But I don’t really like mine right now.”

“Why not?” Wensleydale asks.

Crowley sighs. “You ask a lot of questions, you know that?”

“Yes,” Wensleydale says simply. “My dads tell me all the time.”

Crowley perks up a little bit. “That’s right.”

“What’s right?”

“I forgot you had two dads,” Crowley says. “Put me in a better mood.”

“Really? Why?”

“Well, my church in London said something that made me very… mad,” Crowley says carefully. “So I came down to go to church and be… less mad.”

Wensleydale nods wisely. “My dad says people who run churches aren’t very smart.”

“He’s right,” Crowley says immediately. “Very clouded judgement.”

“Why?” Wensleydale asks.

“That’s a very complicated question,” Crowley admits, coming to his gate and opening it up. “Ask your dads.”

“Alright,” Wensleydale says. “Good luck at church in London.”

Crowley sighs. “Thanks, Wensley.”

Wensleydale waves at him happily, wobbles on his bike with only one arm, but manages to catch himself. “I meant to do that!” he assures Crowley, who gives him a thumbs up as he pedals away.


Friday, May 18, 1990

Soho, London


“Alright,” Anathema says, taking the now empty box out of Crowley’s arms and setting it on the counter. “You just helped me reshelve for twenty minutes with zero complaint. What happened?”

“Huh?” Crowley asks, blinking at her. “Oh, er— nothing happened. I guess.”

“You guess?” Anathema asks, leaning against the counter. “Geez, you’re a scatterbrain. Maybe getting a boyfriend isn’t such a good idea for you, after all.”

Crowley frowns. “I’m not getting a boyfriend.”

“I digress,” Anathema says. “What happened? You’re being weird again.”

“It doesn’t have anything to do with him,” Crowley assures her, stuffing his hands in his jacket pockets. He thinks for a moment. “Or… maybe it does….”

“Sounds complicated,” Anathema says. “Spill it. Or, I can just look.”

“Don’t look,” Crowley says, wincing. “My head’s a mess, it’d give you a right headache. I’m upset about a church thing.”

“Ah,” Anathema says glumly. “Catholicism.”

“Yeah,” Crowley says bitterly. “Catholicism.”

He pauses. “There’s a guy who works at my church named Gabriel, I’d put him a little older than me. I was working in the garden couple weekends ago and he started asking me all these questions about Aziraphale.”

“Did he think you two were dating?” Anathema asks, her eyes wide.

“I think so,” Crowley says. “And he wasn’t a fan of the idea. He told me Aziraphale has a history of being tempted by the idea of sodomy, which made me so fucking mad—”

“He’s gay,” Anathema says sharply.

“That’s not the point—”

“Anthony, that totally means he’s gay, he just feels guilty about it.”

“Maybe, but that’s not the point,” Crowley snaps. “The point— the point is that Gabriel shouldn’t have known that in the first place. I’d bet you money Aziraphale brought that up with the priest, in confession, so Gabriel shouldn’t fucking know about it. And he was all hostile about it even though it’s none of his business—”

“You’re real twisted up about this, huh?” Anathema asks.

“Of course I am!” Crowley exclaims. “Priests aren’t supposed to tell anyone what they hear in confession, it’s a sin. And it pisses me off that that seems to be why Aziraphale walks around on eggshells.”

“Are you gonna say something to him?” 

Crowley blinks. “…No.”

“Anthony,” Anathema says flatly. 

“Well, it’s not really any of my business,” Crowley hisses.

“He’s your friend,” Anathema says. “Who you like! So you double owe it to him to tell him when people are talking shit.”

“I honestly think he knows,” Crowley says.

“Still, Gabriel sounds like a bitch,” Anathema says. “Tell him.”

Crowley blanches. “Tell who what?!”

“Tell Gabriel he’s a bitch, and tell Aziraphale what he said. And invite him to a session.”

“Aziraphale doesn’t play D&D,” Crowley says quickly.

“Well, teach him, because Newt wants to meet him,” Anathema says, and then laughs at Crowley’s mildly horrified expression.


Saturday, May 19, 1990

Soho, London


“Oh, there you are!” Aziraphale says cheerfully, sitting up behind the counter when Crowley steps inside the shop. “You’d disappeared there for a bit, I was worried.”

Crowley’s heart skitters slightly at the sentiment. “All good,” he says, wandering closer to the counter. “Just… busy with work and whatnot. Wedding season is upon us.”

“You hadn’t been into the church,” Aziraphale says. 

“Yeah,” Crowley says. “Sorry, I was down in Tadfield the last couple of weekends. I told you about Adam crashing his bike, you know.”

“Sounded rather dreadful over the phone,” Aziraphale says. “Was he alright?”

“Oh, he’s just fine,” Crowley assures him. “Resilient kid, he is. Er, hardheaded.”

Aziraphale chuckles. “Right.”

“And just this past weekend was one of his little friends birthdays,” Crowley continues. “I’d gotten a gift for her.”

“Oh,” Aziraphale says, clearly mildly surprised. “Well, how kind of you, Mr. Crowley.”

Crowley squirms a bit. “Well, I’d already been down there, so I just went ahead and attended church there instead of here.”

“Oh, well, that’s all well and good,” Aziraphale says. “Gabriel had asked, so— oh.”

It would be hard for anyone, even someone like Aziraphale, who sometimes failed to be observant, to catch the way Crowley flinches. “What was that for?”

Crowley has a rather acrid taste in his mouth. “I had a rather… unfavorable conversation with him the last time I went by to work on the garden.”

Aziraphale hesitates. “What about?”

Crowley squirms. “You know,” he says, making a vague hand gesture.

“What does,” Aziraphale mimics the hand gesture, “mean?”

“It was just… a conversation,” Crowley says carefully. “It left a very bad taste in my mouth, if I’m being honest, and you… er, your name was brought up more than once, I suppose…”

Aziraphale looks crestfallen, if not a bit alarmed. “I see…”

“It’s not any of my business,” Crowley says quickly. “Really, I’m a firm believer that— that things— things like that shouldn’t be— well, I just think everyone should mind their own business, really, and it made me rather mad that I didn’t even ask him about— well, about anything. He just came up to me and started asking me all these questions about you and telling me all these things about you that I really would have rather— I mean, I wouldn’t have minded if you were to tell me, but I didn’t want to hear it though someone else—”

“Mr. Crowley,” Aziraphale says sharply. “You’re rambling.”

“Oh,” Crowley says, “er— sorry.”

“What did he ask you?” Aziraphale asks. “Or, rather, what did he tell you?”

Crowley hesitates. Aziraphale has, in the past, been tempted by the idea of sodomy . What a horrible, long winded way of saying it. “He sort of… implied… that you might not be straight.”

Aziraphale manages to look a combination of angry and mortified and scared out of his mind; he puts his head in his hands. “That’s not true.”

“I know,” Crowley assures him, even though in all likeliness, well… 

He continues. “I told him that. I told him about, er— I told him that I thought Jasper might fancy you and that you said that wouldn’t work because you’re not gay. I told him that.”

Aziraphale looks at him through the cracks of his fingers. “Did he believe you?”

“I think he did,” Crowley says. “He was kind of… hostile about it. I’ve never really liked him, to tell you the truth.”

“Neither have I,” Aziraphale says. “Although, don’t— please don’t tell him I said that.”

“I wouldn’t dream of it.”

“Did he… seem to suspect anything about you?” Aziraphale asks, finally lifting his head and looking at him properly. He looks rather concerned, and Crowley’s heart tightens in his chest.

Crowley hesitates. “Yeah,” he says. “I mean I think— I think he thinks we’re a couple, truth be told. But that’s— that’s ridiculous, of course.”

“Of course,” Aziraphale agrees, and despite the fact that Crowley brought up it’s ridiculousness, his agreement still knocks the breath out of him. 

“I don’t think he suspects anything about me being trans,” Crowley presses on. “But he might be onto me about the gay thing.”

“Well, if you’d like to keep it to yourself, I wouldn’t recommend going to confession,” Aziraphale says bitterly. He’s quiet for a moment, then he sighs and says, “That was rude.”

“Well, it’s justified,” Crowley says. “That’s fucked up, Aziraphale, I’m sorry. I— we should stop going.”

“I can’t,” Aziraphale says immediately. 

“Oh, sure you can,” Crowley says. “I mean, I need to finish setting up the garden, but after that I can do whatever I want. We’re not obligated to keep going there.”

“I’m obligated to keep going there,” Aziraphale insists. “I— my parents… it was their church and I was raised in that church, and Father Malachi wants me to…”

Aziraphale trails off, then sighs heavily and puts his head in his hands. “I don’t want to think about this anymore.”

“Sure,” Crowley says. “We don’t have to. Let’s— talk about something else.”

“You ought to move churches,” Aziraphale says. “I suppose your search wasn’t as successful as you’d hoped.”

“It was successful,” Crowley says, before he can stop himself, and immediately blushes down to his neck.

Aziraphale hums and looks at him. “How so?”

“I— er—” Crowley says. “Well, you know the— I mean, I— well, I got to… meet you which was nice and also the services aren’t awful. It’s— they’re— you know, it’s— er, yeah.”

Aziraphale stares at him.

“And besides, I—“ Crowley clears his throat. “If you’re staying, I will too. I’m not going to leave you behind to deal with that.”

Aziraphale shakes his head. “I’ve been dealing with it for a rather long time, I’m afraid.”

“Well, then it sounds like you could use a friend,” Crowley says decisively. “So you’re not going to talk me out of it, don’t even bother.”

Aziraphale offers him a small smile. “Thank you, Mr. Crowley. I appreciate it very much.”

There’s a pause, then Aziraphale says, “Although, I don’t think we should sit together.”


Sunday, May 20, 1990

London


Rose has moved on from Greece to Romania, she informs Crowley on the phone early in the morning. Early for him, at least; she’s two hours ahead of him, but he ought to have been getting out of bed for church, anyhow. She tells him about a great many things, and he sits quietly and listens with a slight smile on his face.

“How are you, Anthony?” Rose asks after talking for nearly an hour. “You’ve been rather quiet. You’ve sounded a bit sad the last few times I’ve called.”

“I’m fine,” Crowley tells her. “Just— ngk. A bit of interpersonal drama, I’d say.”

“Do you want to talk about it?” Rose asks sympathetically.

“No,” Crowley assures her. “I… no, it’s fine. Don’t worry. Er, I went down to Tadfield last weekend. I got Pepper something for her birthday.”

Rose coos, then coughs, then finishes cooing. “How sweet of you. What’d you get her?”

“Dice,” Crowley says lamely.

“Dice?” Rose asks.

“For their D&D games,” Crowley says. “She seemed to like them.”

Rose hums. “What time is it there?”

Crowley leans back and squints to check the clock. “About ten past eight.”

“Oh, dear,” Rose says. “I didn’t mean to wake you so early, I forgot about the time—”

“S’not a problem—”

“No, but I know how you like your sleep. Oh, I’ll— I’ll call at night next time, does that sound alright?”

“You can call whenever, mum, I don’t mind,” Crowley assures her. “I needed to wake up for church, anyways.”

Rose makes a doubtful noise. “Well,” she says slowly. “Alright. I’ll let you go.”

“Where are you heading to, next?” Crowley asks suddenly, in a rather anxious tone. 

Rose sighs, knowing. “I’m heading to Austria on Tuesday. I’ll call you when I’m settled. Romania until then.”

“Alright,” Crowley says, eased but not by much. “Have fun. Watch out for vampires.”


Friday, May 25, 1990

London


Dagon slams something down on the counter in the backroom, startling Crowley.

Dagon laughs. “You put your hand over your heart like a scared old woman,” she says, delighted, and Crowley lowers his hand defensively and blushes. Dagon continues, pointing to the pretty potted foxglove she’d just slammed down. “This is on hold for someone. She should be picking it up this weekend.”

Crowley eyes the plant nervously. “Alright.”


Saturday, May 26, 1990

London


Crowley goes to stand back up from behind the counter, having finally found his plant mister, and jumps when he realizes there’s someone waiting on the other side.

Beelzebub grins wide and holds her hand up to her heart. “You still do the thing when you’re scared.”

Crowley huffs, annoyed, and stands up to his full height. He’s easily a foot taller than her, but she always manages to completely unnerve him. “Hey, Bells.”

“Hey, Crawley,” she says with a grin, leaning against the counter.

He winces. “You know I don’t really go by that, now. Now that I’m, er… un… converted…”

“S’what Hastur and Ligur still call you,” she reasons with a shrug.

“Why’re they talking about me?” Crowley asks defensively.

“Well, you’re rather interesting, I think,” Beelzebub says with a toothy smile. Crowley shrinks a little bit. “Hastur calls you a flash bastard.”

Crowley’s face falls, annoyed. “Tell him I have good taste.”

“Do you?” Beelzebub asks. “I hear you picked your middle name because you like James Bond.”

“I hear you picked the name Beelzebub because you converted to Satanism,” Crowley counters; he wonders briefly why his old school managed to produce so many Satanists who stuck with the gig.

She scowls at him, and it’s a frightening expression. “I’m here to pick up a foxglove.”

“What a coincidence, I have a foxglove for you,” Crowley says, slithering towards the backroom. “I’ll be right back.”

He returns with the plant, setting it on the counter. She watches him curiously the whole time. “Here you go, Bells,” he says, sliding it towards her. “Mind if I ask what you’re doing with a foxglove? They’re extremely poisonous.”

“I know,” Beelzebub says, and holds his stare.

He looks away uncomfortably. “Okay,” he says slowly. “Well, you have fun with that.”


Sunday, May 27, 1990

Soho, London


Crowley has to work after mass, but before he manages to slip out, Aziraphale catches him in the lobby and asks him to come by the shop later. Crowley spends most of the day thinking about why he wants to see him.

Crowley finds himself thinking that Aziraphale looks rather fetching, sitting behind the counter with a book in his hands, eyes focused behind his thick glasses. He shakes the thought off quickly, his cheeks warm, when Aziraphale looks up at him and grins.

He shuts his book and sets it on the counter. “Sorry to pull you out of your routine,” he apologizes. “I just didn’t want to ask to make plans in the lobby, lest someone… er, you know.”

“Sure,” Crowley says, leaning against the counter. “I don’t mind, I like coming by the shop. You wanted to make plans?”

“Yes,” Aziraphale says cheerfully. “Next Friday is my birthday, and I don’t have much of anybody to celebrate with, so I was wondering if you’d like to go to dinner.”

Crowley’s heart pounds slightly. “I’d love to,” he says, trying not to sound as eager as he is. “How old are you turning?”

“Thirty,” Aziraphale says, and he sounds a bit regretful.

Crowley resists his urge, inspired by Anathema within the past year anticipating his own thirtieth birthday, to immediately respond with dirty thirty. The thought of it reminds him of something else, though. “Oh— I— shit, I’m sorry, I actually can’t.”

Aziraphale’s face falls. “Oh.”

“Next Friday is the first Friday of June, is all,” Crowley says. “And that’s, er, when I play D&D with Anathema and Newt, and they’d be upset if I cancelled.”

“Well, that’s alright,” Aziraphale says, though he sounds quite disappointed. “Next Sunday is Pentecost Sunday, so we could always celebrate then.”

“Oh, I— oh— ngk,” Crowley says, frustrated. 

“What?” 

“Mr. Tyler— er, do you know who that even is?”

“I don’t believe you’ve mentioned him.”

“He’s a Chairman of our local Resident’s Association,” Crowley says in a mocking tone. “He’s always on me about the church landscaping, which I guess is fine, but he wants me down there this weekend.”

“Oh,” Aziraphale says, and he somehow sounds even more disappointed than before. “Well, that’s alright.”

“No,” Crowley says, if only because he’ll steal any opportunity he has to be around him. “No, I— er… let me think for just a moment.”

He hesitates. “If you’d like to come play Dungeons and Dragons with us, I think you’d have fun.”

“You don’t sound terribly enthralled by that idea,” Aziraphale points out.

“Well, I’m not,” Crowley admits. “But not because I don’t want you to come to the session, or anything. I’m more, just… worried about how Anathema would react to you.”

“Why do you say that?” Aziraphale asks.

“Well— er—” Crowley says, realizing he’s backed himself into a corner and he can’t exactly explain that she’ll probably be sort of weird about everything seeing as I fancy you quite a bit. “Well, it’s just that I worry you wouldn’t want to spend your birthday with people you’ve never met, is all.”

“Well, I don’t play Dungeons and Dragons, admittedly,” Aziraphale says.

“I could teach you,” Crowley offers immediately. “Er— I’m not a very good teacher, but I taught the Them how to play. I could help you create a character before the session. If you’d like.”

Aziraphale makes a pensive noise. Crowley hesitates, then decides to pitch a half-baked idea. “Why don’t you come to Tadfield with me?”

“What?” Aziraphale asks.

Crowley blushes. “We could both go to Tadfield. To celebrate Pentecost. It could be like a little holiday for you birthday. And you could go to a church where nobody knows your business and maybe you’ll even get to be amused by the Them being the Them.”

Aziraphale hesitates for a long moment. “Alright.”

“Really?” Crowley asks. “On which point?”

“All,” Aziraphale says with a slight smile. “It sounds like a great deal of fun, I think. Certainly the most interesting birthday I’ll have had in the past few years.”

“Cool,” Crowley says, trying to act as such.

Chapter Text

June 1, 1990

Aziraphale’s Birthday

Sixth Session

London


Anathema opens the door before Crowley can knock, a wicked smile on her face. Aziraphale jumps, slightly, as he wasn’t expecting the door to open so suddenly, and she fixes her eyes on him eagerly. 

She reaches a hand out and takes his in hers, pulling him forward into her flat with the handshake. Crowley follows him inside, horrified already by how things are transpiring.

“You must be Aziraphale,” Anathema says, shaking his hand enthusiastically. “I’m Anathema. Anthony has told me so much about you.”

Aziraphale opens his mouth, then hesitates. He looks at Crowley. “Your name is Anthony?”

Crowley blushes deeply. “Er, yeah.”

Anathema makes eye contact with Crowley over Aziraphale’s shoulder, screaming in her head, YOU’VE BEEN TALKING TO THIS GUY FOR SIX FUCKING MONTHS AND HE DIDN’T KNOW YOUR NAME?!

Crowley’s thoughts are a mess of exactly one thing: SHUT UP SHUT UP SHUT UP SHUT UP.

“Anthony suits you,” Aziraphale says, unbeknownst of their conversation.

Crowley blushes to the roots of his hair. “Thank you.”

Anathema lets go of Aziraphale’s hand, shuts the front door, and darts into the kitchen, where Newt always seems to be when Crowley arrives. She slides up close to him and hisses in his ear: “Did you fucking hear that? That was the gayest thing I’ve ever seen.”

Newt doesn’t have a response for her beyond a chaste kiss on the lips. “Four wine glasses?” he asks, loud enough for Crowley and Aziraphale to hear him, lest they get suspicious.

“Yeah,” Anathema says in a similar ton, slipping back out to where Crowley and Aziraphale are standing next to each other awkwardly.

“I hear it’s your birthday,” Anathema says. “How old are you turning?”

“Thirty,” Aziraphale says politely.

Crowley gives her a desperate look, practically begging her not to—

“Dirty thirty,” she says, not regarding him. 

Aziraphale’s entire face turns red. “Oh— no— I— no, I— I don’t think so—”

“Hey, I brought wine,” Crowley says through gritted teeth.

“He brought wine!” Anathema exclaims, taking the bottle from him. “Thanks ever so, Anthony.”

Newt slides out from the kitchen with four wine glasses and sets them methodically on the table. “Hi,” he says, reaching over to take Aziraphale’s hand. “Nice to meet you. Please excuse my girlfriend, she loves to embarrass people.”

“It’s a hobby,” Anathema says with a wink, disappearing to find the corkscrew. 

Newt rolls his eyes, but he’s grinning. “I’m Newt. I DM. I’m a lot less interesting than Ms. Device, so I’m sure you’ve heard much less about me.”

“Oh, no,” Aziraphale says. “Mr. Cr— er… Anthony has mentioned you plenty of times.”

Crowley both looks and feels as though he’s never going to stop blushing. Newt continues. “He taught you how to play, then?”

“Yes,” Aziraphale says. “It sounds rather interesting, although I’m afraid I won’t be very good at it.”

“Well, Anthony sucks, so you can’t be worse than him!” Anathema says, returning with a now opened wine bottle. 

Crowley pulls a chair at the table out for Aziraphale, then pulls one out for himself and sits down rigidly. “Every second, I’m regretting bringing you here more and more.”

“Oh, hush now,” Anathema says, sliding into her chair. “It’ll be a great time. The perfect birthday celebration, isn’t that right Aziraphale?”

“I don’t see why not,” Aziraphale says; he attempts a small smile, but his voice sounds rather meek.

Crowley opens his mouth to say what he’s sure Aziraphale is thinking, but Anathema beats him to it. “Oh, don’t worry,” she says, resting a hand on his shoulder and squeezing. “We’ll go easy on you.”

“Oh,” Aziraphale says, mildly startled. “Er—”

“Anthony told you, right?” Anathema asks, and Crowley face-palms.

“Told me what?” Aziraphale asks.

“I’m a witch,” Anathema says brightly. “Born and raised. I can read thoughts and the like. It’s thought that at one point or another my family had a seer. Anthony did tell you, didn’t he?”

Aziraphale stutters, and she watches him closely, before she says: “Ah, he did, but you didn’t believe him.”

“Okay,” Newt says, grinning. “Enough.”

He looks at Aziraphale empathetically. “She’s been asked not to do it without permission.”

“Well, how often do I get to freak a new friend out?” Anathema asks; she takes to pouring the wine with a wide grin on her face. “You know, Aziraphale, Anthony rarely talks to anybody besides us two and his mum. You should feel very special.”

Crowley reaches across the table and grabs the first wine glass she filled, pulling it over to himself and taking a rather large gulp. “I have— er— other friends,” he says lamely.

“Hastur and Ligur don’t count,” Anathema points out; she slides a glass to Aziraphale, who takes it gratefully.

“Bells counts,” Crowley says, knowing full well that’s not true. 

“Anthony, I can literally read minds, don’t lie to me,” Anathema says flatly. 

“Who’s Bells?” Aziraphale asks.

“One of Anthony’s Satanist acquaintances,” Newt says helpfully.

Aziraphale nods tightly. “You seem to have a lot of those.”

“They’re not even acquaintances,” Anathema says, sliding Newt his glass. “If an acquaintance invites you to a party, you might say yes. Anthony’s too unnerved by the lot of ‘em to go anywhere with ‘em. Especially Bells.”

“Hey, is this a convention about my personal life, or a Dungeons and Dragons session?” Crowley asks suddenly. 

“Is there a difference?” Anathema asks, taking a sip from her own glass.


Saturday, June 2, 1990

Tadfield


They’re only slightly hungover for the drive, which is a very good state for the two of them to be in at any rate. Either way, Crowley still has to wear sunglasses to keep himself from getting a migraine on the way down. 

“This is where you grew up?” Aziraphale asks, extremely charmed by the quaint little town.

Crowley hums. “Born and raised.”

“It’s very charming,” Aziraphale says. “And the people are nice?”

“Exceptionally,” Crowley says. “Everyone calls me Anthony.”

It takes Aziraphale a very long moment to realize why that’s such a good thing. “Oh! Oh, jolly good.”

Aziraphale is equally as charmed by the house, which is very small but admittedly cozy, and close enough to his heart that Crowley considers himself proud of it.

“Oh, it— oh my,” Aziraphale says when he steps inside. “Oh, you’re right, it does smell like cigarettes…”

Crowley, already dizzy with it and developing that migraine anyways, takes his glasses off and shuts the door behind him. “Sweet cigarettes,” he points out lamely.

Aziraphale turns back to him. “Are you alright, then?”

“Yup,” Crowley says. “Fine. Great. Er, keen. Just… the smell. I’ll get used to it after an hour or so, but I’m… gonna get a headache.”

Aziraphale adopts a sympathetic expression. “Oh, I’m sorry.”

“Don’t be,” Crowley says, his tone a bit more bitter than he’d like. “Er— would you like to see the garden?”

“I would, yes!” Aziraphale says brightly. “The one at the church already looks incredible, I can’t imagine what you get up to on your own.”

Crowley takes him out into the backyard, and is mildly surprised when Aziraphale lets him ramble about each plant and what it is and what he thinks of it. Crowley takes him around the whole back garden and even drags him to the front yard to talk about the sparse flowers he has planted out front. 

“And I— oh,” Crowley says, turning his head when he hears the telltale shouts of the Them. He nods over the fence, in the direction of the voices. “That’s the Them.”

“The Them?” Aziraphale asks.

“Yes, the gang I told you about,” Crowley says. “They’re adorable little shits. They’re the most chaotic things I’ve ever seen, it’s perfect. Their job is basically to cause trouble and have fun.”

“Well, what an occupation,” Aziraphale says, somewhat wary. “How old are they?”

“Eight-ish, ten-ish,” Crowley says, completely uncertain. “Listen.”

Pepper’s shriek is clear as day, even from a distance. “You’re all cowards!” she exclaims loudly. “You can’t agree to the rules and then double cross me!”

“All’s fair in life and war!” Adam’s voice rises above the rest of the Them, naturally. 

“It’s love and war!” Wensleydale shouts.

“Brian!” Adam shouts. “Where are you going?!”

Brian yells very loudly and very quickly something about his mum wanting him home, his words blurring together as he turns into the alleyway and goes racing through it.

“Oh, here,” Crowley says, nudging Aziraphale.

Brian comes shooting out of the alleyway into the street, turning his bike sharply to run alongside the curb. He looks instinctually at Crowley’s house, as all the Them do when riding past, just to check for the presence of a certain car. Unfortunately, in doing so today, he catches sight of Mr. Crowley standing in the front lawn, alongside someone he’s never seen before. Brian’s gaze lands on him, and stays on him, failing to realize he’s rapidly approaching the telltale sign of Mr. Crowley’s presence.

Crowley tenses up, realizing that he’s not slowing down. “Brian—!” he tries to warn him, but by the time his name is out of his mouth, Brian has already slammed full speed into the front of the Bentley. 

Crowley and Aziraphale both wince as Brian topples backwards off his bike and onto the pavement. “Shit,” Crowley hisses, then immediately crosses the lawn to where he’s sitting in the street, looking rather dazed. Aziraphale follows him.

“Any missing teeth?” Crowley asks; he fixates on the rather large scratch Brian’s bike made on his car for just a moment, then peels his attention away when he notices Brian’s bloody nose.

“Christ,” he says, crouching down next to him; his knees pop rather loudly, but he ignores them. “Here, look,” he says, grabbing Brian’s wrist as gently as he can and raising it up to his face. “Pinch your nose.”

He demonstrates on himself. “Like this. And lean forward.”

“I thought you leaned back,” Brian says, following his lead and mirroring what he does, blood dripping down his face all the while. “My mum says lean back.”

“Well, I say lean forward,” Crowley says, as Aziraphale crouches down next to him. “Aziraphale? It’s lean forward, right?”

Aziraphale produces a handkerchief and shrugs, neglecting to comment and instead handing it over to Brian. “Here you are, dear boy.”

Brian stares at Aziraphale with the wide-eyed gaze of an eleven year old who has just discovered what it’s like to have a schoolboy crush. He takes the handkerchief more delicately than he’s ever handled anything. 

“Thanks,” he says shyly, then wipes his face and chin messily with it. It does nothing to stop his bleeding, so Crowley makes him pinch his nose and lean forward again. 

“I hope your mum didn’t want you home immediately,” Crowley says. “I doubt she’d like you rolling in with a bloody nose.”

“I do it all the time,” Brian assures him. “She just gives me ice and makes me lie down.”

“I don’t think you’re meant to lie down,” Aziraphale says, concerned. “I think I read you’re meant to sit up.”

“Oh,” Brian says. “Well, yeah. Er, of course. I always tell her that. But she’s my mum, so she makes me lie down.”

“Of course,” Aziraphale agrees with a slight smile. 

“You’ve got a pretty decent scrape on your knee,” Crowley comments, standing back up. “I’ll be right back.”

“Where are you going?” Brian asks immediately.

“I’m just gonna grab you a bandaid,” Crowley assures him. “Aziraphale’ll keep you company.”

Their stash on bandaids is rather old, but still plentiful considering how often Crowley used to bang himself up as a kid. Rose simply never got around to getting rid of them, probably because she lived two doors down from Brian and it was very obvious from the start exactly what kind of trouble he would get himself into.

Crowley grabs the box and exactly three wet wipes, and finds Brian and Aziraphale sitting on the curb instead of in the street. 

“Here we are,” Crowley says, sitting down on Brian’s other side. His knees pop again, and this time Brian laughs, then winces. “Can I clean that off for you, or would you rather do it yourself?”

“I’ll do it myself,” Brian insists, taking the wet wipe and letting go of his nose a moment to clean off his knee. His nosebleed has slowed, but it hasn’t completely stopped, and he gets droplets all over his shirt. 

“My mum usually uses, er,” Brian hesitates, stuffing the used wet wipe into the pocket of his shorts. “Hi… hire…”

“Hydrogen peroxide?” Aziraphale guesses.

“Yeah!” Brian says. “She uses it to clean, er, scrapes an’ the like.”

“Lucky you,” Crowley says, picking the box of bandaids back up. “My mum just used rubbing alcohol.”

“Oh, dear,” Aziraphale says, wincing. 

“Eh, it wasn’t that— oh.”

Crowley wilts a little bit, peering into the bandaid box. 

“What?” Aziraphale asks, and Crowley tilts the box towards him; it’d been a rather clever place for Rose to stash cigarettes.

Brian peers into the box. “You keep cigarettes with your bandaids?”

“My mum does, apparently,” Crowley says glumly. He takes the cigarettes— only three of them— out of the box and hands them to Aziraphale rather hastily. “Keep those away from me, yeah?”

Aziraphale pockets them, and Crowley pulls a bandaid out of the box.

“Are you quitting smoking?” Brian asks.

“I guess so,” Crowley says, somewhat bitterly.

Brian nods wisely. “My dad quit smoking. He got hypnotized.”

“Did he really?” Aziraphale asks, and Brian nods eagerly. 

“He says it worked really well!” he explains while Crowley unwraps a bandaid for him. “He says he hates the smell of cigarettes now!”

“I love the smell of cigarettes,” Crowley mutters; he lays the bandaid on Brian’s knee with more gentleness than he thought capable, in such an unhappy mood. “There we are.”

Brian unpinches his nose and holds his hand under it for a moment. “I think my nose stopped bleeding.”

“Jolly good,” Aziraphale says helpfully. Brian beams at him and extends the bloody handkerchief back to him. Aziraphale hesitates. “Er— you can keep that.”

“Oh,” Brian says, but then he grins and shoves it in his pocket. “Okay!” he says, hopping back up and picking his bike up. “Thanks, Mr. Crowley. I’m sorry I hit your car.”

Crowley waves him off. “‘S just a scratch. Everything’s fixable.”

“My dad lets me help work on his car sometimes,” Brian says. “Er— he lets me hold things he needs and hand them to him. So if you need help fixing it I can help! Or, er, hold things!”

Crowley grins, despite himself. “That’s fine, Brian. Thank you, though. You know, when I was your age, I ran into Mr. Tyler’s car on my bike?”

Brian’s eyes go huge. “Did he kill you?”

Crowley laughs loudly. “I thought he was going to. He made me help him fix it, so you’re off the hook. Go help your mum out.”

“Okay!” Brian says brightly, mounting his bike. “Bye Mr. Crowley! Thank you!”

He looks rather shyly at Aziraphale. “Bye,” he says quickly, and then pedals off.

Crowley stands back up with some effort. Aziraphale follows his lead, grinning at him. “That was very nice of you, Anthony.”

Crowley, still not used to Aziraphale calling him by his first name, blushes. “It was just a bandaid.”

“Maybe, but it was the way you handled it,” Aziraphale says kindly. “It was very, er, paternal of you.”

Crowley somehow blushes even harder. “Thanks?”

“I mean it as a compliment,” Aziraphale assures him. “Do you want children?”

“Oh, God no,” Crowley says immediately. “Kids scare the shit out of me. I think the Them are amusing from a distance, and I enjoy, you know, teaching them how to play D&D, or when they stand around watching me garden like I can’t see them, but I’d be a horrible father.”

Aziraphale frowns. “No, I don’t think so at all.”

“I held Adam for, like, ten minutes when he was a baby,” Crowley says. “And I just kept thinking, what if I threw him? I don’t think good parents think thoughts like that.”

“You wouldn’t actually throw a baby,” Aziraphale says.

“Maybe not, but I’d still be a shitty dad,” Crowley assures him. “I didn’t exactly have a stellar example growing up. Er, do you want kids?”

“No,” Aziraphale says simply. He doesn’t elaborate.

“Well, alright,” Crowley says. “Nice of you to offer Brian your handkerchief. Unfortunately, I think by giving it away, the number of people in the world who actually carry handkerchiefs has finally dropped down to zero.”

“Oh,” Aziraphale says, shoving him lightly. “Don’t be like that. It came in handy, didn’t it?”

“You’re so old fashioned,” Crowley teases. “I can’t think of a single person who’s carried around handkerchiefs since the 1960’s.”

“Well, you can think of me,” Aziraphale refutes. “I just happen to like them. And it did come in handy, did it not?”

“I guess it did,” Crowley says, trying to hide his grin. “Where did I leave off?”

“I believe you were telling me about mint?”

“Oh! Yes. Yeah, mint is a bitch to keep, it tries to take over everything, so you have to keep it potted…”


Sunday, June 3, 1990

Pentecost Sunday

Tadfield


“Are you alright?”

“Hm?” Aziraphale asks, looking up from his mug. “Fine.”

“You look distraught,” Crowley points out.

“Fine,” Aziraphale repeats; he gives Crowley a smile, but immediately drops it. “Is that… really the church you grew up in?”

“It is.”

“And they… really don’t mind?” Aziraphale asks. “The, er, or— excuse me. The fact that you’re, er…?”

“Nah.”

Aziraphale seems mildly startled by the nonchalance of his answer. Crowley picks up on it. “I take it you’ve been listening to the damning of queer people since before you were old enough to understand what it meant?”

Aziraphale hesitates. “Something like that.”

There’s a lapse of silence. Crowley watches him the entire time.

“Everyone at your church is just so… nice,” Aziraphale insists. 

“People at your church are nice,” Crowley shrugs.

“Well, they’re nice, but they’re not… kind. Does that make any sense?”

“Sure.”

“…You’re awfully quiet on the subject.”

“Just wondering what you’re wondering.”

“How do you mean?”

“Do you think all churches should be kind?”

“Of course. Why shouldn’t they be? See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are.”

“The reason why the world does not know us is that it did not know him.” Crowley finishes.

Aziraphale looks rather surprised. “Oh— er, yes,” he pauses. “How many Bible verses do you have memorized?”

“Just the ones I can use in an argument,” Crowley says lazily. “To prove that, you know, God loves unconditionally.”

Aziraphale pauses. “Yes.”

“He does, doesn’t he?” Crowley insists. “Love his children unconditionally?”

“Of course,” Aziraphale agrees immediately, but there’s an obvious air of hesitation.

“But…” Crowley prompts.

“But?”

“You’re thinking of a but, you’re just not saying it.”

“Well…” Aziraphale thinks for a moment. “Does he really love those who end up in Hell?”

“Yes,” Crowley says immediately. “He misses them. He knows the potential He made them with, and He knows that through free will they Fell. He grieves what they could have been. Even the demons, I think. Even Fallen angels. I think He misses them. I think, truthfully, if there were a demon who hadn’t particularly meant to Fall, and he repented in earnest, I think God would welcome him back to Heaven.”

Aziraphale stares at him. “Surely not.”

Crowley frowns. “Why do you say so?”

“Well, demons are… demons,” Aziraphale says. “They’re in Hell for a reason, they Fell. They’re wicked, and evil, that’s where they belong. You think God would welcome the Devil back into Heaven?”

“If the Devil repented in earnest, maybe,” Crowley says shortly. “He’d know whether or not he meant it. He knows whether or not anyone means it. Everyone repents when they get up there, but He always knows who means it and who’s just trying to save their arse.”

“You think He lets people, just… talk to Him?” Aziraphale asks, perplexed.

“That’s what my mum thinks,” Crowley says defensively. “She always says she has a long discussion prepared for when she gets up there. I think everyone is allowed to talk to Him when they die. We’re allowed to talk to Him on Earth, aren’t we?”

“Well…” Aziraphale says. “Praying feels a lot different, than… actually looking Him in the eye.”

Crowley is quiet for a moment. “You cry when you pray.”

“Sorry?” Aziraphale asks.

“You cry when you pray,” Crowley repeats. “I sat next to you today and, after communion, you got down to pray, and you cried.”

He pauses. “Who were you praying for?”

Aziraphale blushes and looks away. “That’s a rather personal thing to ask.”

“Okay,” Crowley says, backing off. “You don’t have to tell me. But you cry when you pray, and I think that’s… keen. You seem… very connected to Him.”

Aziraphale looks back at him, almost sadly. “Do I?”

“Yeah,” Crowley says. “It reminds me of how my mum talks about it. I think you’d, er, get along with her.”

“Thanks,” Aziraphale says softly. “I do enjoy your philosophies, Anthony. They’re… rather interesting.”

“Do you agree with them?”

They stare at each other.

“…Yes,” Aziraphale says slowly. “So far, I have agreed with all your interpretations.”

There’s a long pause.

“They’re…” Aziraphale hesitates. “…rather easing. To the mind.”

Crowley’s heart claws its way up into his throat, but he does his best to ignore it. He just nods quietly and doesn’t push the subject.


Friday, June 8, 1990

London


“There he is,” Anathema says, cranky, as Crowley rounds the corner to his flat. She stands up, having been waiting for the past hour for him to arrive home. “I’ve got your stupid St. John’s Wort.”

“I’m not in the mood,” Crowley snaps, pulling his keys out of his jacket pocket.

“Neither am I!” Anathema exclaims. “I left you a message at like eight this morning to let you know I’d be by with more of your stupid flowers, and you kept me waiting!”

“Apologies,” Crowley says, not sounding as though he means it in the slightest. “I didn’t pick up the phone this morning because I was at work at five thirty dealing with the fact that a pipe burst in the back room and fucking—” he takes several moments to unlock his door, clearly struggling to keep his anger contained, “— ruined everything. So that’s what I’ve been up to all day. Thank you for your patience.”

He unlocks his door and pushes it open; Anathema glares at him for a moment before handing the flowers over. He takes them, takes a deep breath, then says, “Thanks.”

He steps inside and makes to shut the door, but she stops it with her foot. He turns around to ask what she wants, but she beats him to it: “He likes you.”

“What?” Crowley snaps.

“He likes you,” Anathema repeats, slower and more sympathetic.

Crowley frowns. “If you looked around in his head—”

“I didn’t!” Anathema says, defensive. “You’re a prick, sometimes, you know that? I didn’t look around in his head anymore than what I pointed out. Besides, I don’t even think he knows he likes you, yet. He’s just… happier when he’s near you.”

She looks at him for a moment. “I can’t imagine why.”

Crowley scowls. “That’s right. Make my day.”

“It’s in his aura,” Anathema insists. “And it’s in yours, too. You two like each other.”

“He’s not gay,” Crowley says flatly.

“He’s in denial,” Anathema says. “He must be, he said he was raised in that church. He’s probably drowning in guilt. It must hurt to look at you.”

“Anathema,” Crowley says, clearly struggling to not start shouting, “all day, I did my job walking around in puddles. I have ruined my shoes. And I have to wake up and do it again tomorrow. I want to have a glass of bourbon and go to sleep. I’m not in the mood to talk about my love life.”

“You’re never in the mood to talk about your love life!” Anathema argues.

“You want me to talk about my love life?” Crowley hisses, leaning forward. “Fine. My love life is a £30 vibrator that I keep under my mattress. Can I go now?”

“Oh, I hate that you’re not even clever enough to be lying about that,” Anathema says harshly. “Have fun with your bourbon and your vibrator. And you’re welcome for the flowers!”

“Thank you!” Crowley snaps, but she’s already grabbed the doorknob and slammed it shut. 


Saturday, June 9, 1990

London


Crowley sits and listens quietly to Rose telling him all about France, where she’d moved on to after seeing Austria and Switzerland. He keeps Vesper on his arm, and a mug of tea made with St. John’s Wort sitting on the table with him, and he listens quietly while she tells him all about the countryside and the food and especially the Notre Dame Cathedral. 

“You’re awfully quiet,” she comments, as she winds down from a story. “How are things in London?”

“Fine,” Crowley says flatly. “Just had a long day at work. I’m enthralled, I promise. It’s comforting to hear your voice.”

Rose sighs, and it’s a happy sound. “I do miss you, you know. If it had been at all possible, I would’ve snatched you out of London and brought you with me.”

“I would be digging my heels in every step of the way,” Crowley reminds her. “I’d be a horror to travel with.”

“You absolutely would be, wouldn’t you?” Rose asks. “I can’t imagine you on a plane.”

“Imagining me on a plane just made my anxiety spike,” Crowley admits. “Are you… traveling by plane?”

“Only to and from England,” Rose assures him. “Everything else is train and car.”

“Okay,” Crowley says, relaxing again, though admittedly not by much. “Where are you on to next?”

“Spain,” Rose says. “And Portugal. Then I’m going to go back up through France and go from there. But I’m taking my time here, that won’t be for a while. Another two weeks here, at the least.”

“Okay,” Crowley says.

“And I was thinking,” Rose says. “When I get back into London, what if I stayed with you for one or two days? You could show me around. Take me to your church and the like.”

Crowley perks up a bit. “I’d like that, yeah. You can meet Anathema and Newt and— er,” Crowley hesitates. “… my snake.”

“Oh, no,” Rose says immediately. “No, no, I can’t stand snakes. You still have that thing?”

“She’s not a thing,” Crowley says. “She’s a lady. And she’ll live a long time. Her name is Vesper.”

Rose sighs heavily. “Well, you plan for that weekend when I get back. It’ll be sometime in October.”

“I’d love to have you back for my birthday,” Crowley says hopefully. “Be a great present.”

“We’ll see,” Rose says. “And I will meet your young lady, I suppose, but I’m not going to touch her.”

“You’ll hurt her feelings,” Crowley points out.

“Oh, drama queen,” Rose teases. “She’s a snake, Anthony!”

“She hears so much about you! She’s on my arm now. She’ll say hello.”

Crowley holds the phone next to Vesper; she inspects it halfheartedly and then goes back to situating herself around his wrist. Crowley brings the phone back up to his ear.

“I didn’t like that,” Rose says, and Crowley laughs.


Sunday, June 10, 1990

Trinity Sunday

London


“Aziraphale!”

He and Crowley both stop short as they’re almost out the door, and a young woman slides up between them and lays a hand warmly on his shoulder. “I feel like we haven’t sat down to chat in such a long time! How have you been?”

“Fine,” Aziraphale says; when he smiles at her, he’s clearly intending for it to be genuine, but it’s a tad strained. Crowley watches him curiously. “Er— have you met Mr. Crowley, here?”

“I haven’t!” she says brightly, setting her gaze on him. She reaches over to shake his hand. “I’ve seen you coming in sporadically, though.”

“I’m pretty much a regular,” Crowley tells her. “I’m Anthony. You?”

“Uriel!” she says with a smile. “I’m an old friend of Aziraphale’s. We grew up together.”

“How nice,” Crowley says, searching Aziraphale’s face for a sign of whether that’s a good thing or a bad thing.

“Aziraphale,” Uriel says sweetly, turning to look at him. “Raphael and I are going to brunch for Trinity Sunday. It’s been ages since you joined us for something, won’t you come?”

Aziraphale and Crowley both start to say something at the same time, then stop and exchange a look, before Aziraphale says, “Anthony and I were just on our way to, er, celebrate it ourselves.”

“Oh, were you?” Uriel asks, glancing back to Crowley. “You celebrate all the Holy Days, Mr. Crowley?”

“With my mum, normally,” Crowley admits. “She’s out of the country, so Aziraphale has kindly offered to step in.”

“How do you two know each other?” Uriel asks.

There’s a beat before Crowley and Aziraphale attempt to answer.

“He comes into the shop every now and then,” Aziraphale says, at the same time Crowley says: “I thought he looked like a nice person to start socializing with.”

Uriel glances between them. “Well, we’d be delighted to have you join us, Mr. Crowley. Are you good with children?”

“Anthony is wonderful with children,” Aziraphale says politely. “But, I doubt Raphael would appreciate the unexpected company. Perhaps we should plan something more in advance.”

Uriel gives him a rather knowing look that’s incredibly difficult for Crowley to dissect, especially considering how quickly it flickers over her features. “All right,” she says, “I’ll give you a call. Let’s plan something for Corpus Christi, shall we?”

“Actually, we’ll be in Tadfield,” Crowley says before Aziraphale can answer.

“Yes,” Aziraphale says, catching on. “We will be in Tadfield.”

“Because it’s also Wensleydale’s birthday,” Crowley tacks on, and it’s conveniently true. “He’s turning, er… eleven? He’s a family friend. And we were going to be celebrating together anyways and we celebrated Pentecost Sunday in Tadfield so we thought we’d just combine them.”

“Yes,” Aziraphale agrees, not knowing in the slightest where Crowley is going with this.

“Well, all right,” Uriel says lightly. “Then we’ll plan for brunch some other time. I ought to come by the shop.”

“Well, you know how my hours are,” Aziraphale says. “Anytime, really, dear girl.”

“See, I know you miss me, too,” Uriel coos. She glances to Crowley. “Lovely to meet you.”

“You as well,” Crowley says stiffly.

She makes a swift exit, and Crowley waits until they get to his car before he starts asking questions. “Is she a friend? Or just very good at faking it?”

“Well, I suspect she must be good at faking it, knowing Raphael,” Aziraphale says, before he can stop himself. Crowley laughs loudly.

“Oh, dear,” Aziraphale says upon Crowley’s reaction. “I probably shouldn’t have said that.”

“No!” Crowley exclaims, delighted. “I’m— holy shit. That was funny. Please don’t filter yourself for my sake.”

“I don’t do it for your sake, I do it to be nice,” Aziraphale says as he climbs into the passenger seat. “Would you say such a thing about, er, Anathema?”

“No, she’d kill me,” Crowley says quickly, sliding into the driver’s seat. “Besides, she provides me with an unfortunate account of the details. It’d be slander.”

“Thank you for helping me get out of that,” Aziraphale says. “Uriel is very sweet, and I do consider her a friend, Raphael is just… somewhat intolerable.”

“I haven’t met him.”

“Good for you.”

Crowley snickers. “That awful?”

“Rather… opinionated,” Aziraphale admits. “Think Gabriel, but without the polite smile.”

Crowley sours. “Oh.”

“That was very quick thinking about the, er— who did you say? Having a birthday?”

“Wensleydale,” Crowley says. “And it wasn’t quick thinking, really, it’s true. I was planning to nip down there anyways. I got Pepper a birthday present, didn’t want to play favorites.”

Aziraphale looks at him sweetly, then seems to catch himself and wipes the look off his face. “That’s very kind of you. Any ideas on what to get him?”

“Gonna grab him his own pair of dice,” Crowley says. “But I asked his dads for ideas because I didn’t want to be unoriginal. They said he had requested a… set of binders.”

Aziraphale blinks. “Like… office supplies?”

“Yes,” Crowley says. “Like office supplies.”

There’s a beat, then Aziraphale says, “Well, how studious of him.”

“Right,” Crowley says, starting the car finally. “I’ll probably just get him dice. You don’t have to actually come with me, though. I was just saying that to help you with an excuse.”

Aziraphale hesitates. “Well, I… wouldn’t mind. If you don’t.”

“Really?” Crowley asks. “You don’t have anything going on?”

“I own my own shop, I can do as I please with it,” Aziraphale reasons. “And I’d be happy to go with you, if not to help you celebrate the holy day. You’re just going for the day?”

“Yeah,” Crowley says. “S’all I can get off work. Dagon has me working odd hours, anyways, though, so my days off all over the place.”

“We’ll go early, then? Get church in?”

Crowley despises the idea of waking up early, but he supposes he can always take a nap. “Yeah. We’ll go early. I’ll pick you up. For now, though, cafe?”

“Yes,” Aziraphale agrees with a smile. “I don’t know about you, but I could do with some cocoa.”


Thursday, June 14, 1990

Corpus Christi

Wensleydale’s Birthday

Tadfield


Crowley is rather irritable all morning, but only because he was forced to wake up early. He’s, in fact, very happy about getting to spend time with Aziraphale, which becomes more evident after church when he makes himself some coffee and sits on the front porch to avoid the smell of smoke. Aziraphale sits with him, his own mug of coffee (made by Crowley) in his hands, chatting idly as Crowley slowly shifts into a better mood.

“I take it you’re not much of a morning person?” Aziraphale asks, trying to hide his smirk by taking a sip.

Crowley grunts. “I like to sleep.”

“I can tell,” Aziraphale teases. “You seem to just need caffeine, though.”

“As soon as Wensleydale gets these dice, I’m taking a nap,” Crowley informs him seriously. 

There’s a long pause, and then Aziraphale frowns as he thinks of something. “Anthony?”

“Hm?” Crowley hums.

“How did you get a tape deck into a vintage Bentley?”

Crowley stares at his car for a long moment. “Extreme diligence.”

“Whatever possessed you to do so?” 

“Well, I have a very large collection of Queen tapes, and a very intense desire to listen to them while I’m driving.”

“Where on Earth did you get a vintage Bentley in the first place?”

“It was my dads,” Crowley mumbles. “I doubt he’d like what I’ve done with it, but it’s mine now, so I don’t care.”

“You’re not very close with him, I take it?”

“Not in the slightest. He died when I was fifteen.”

“Oh,” Aziraphale says, startled. “I’m sorry to hear that.”

“S’alright.”

The Them are in school, which Crowley finds rather impeding to his nap schedule. By the time they come riding through the alleyway on their bikes, Crowley has long sense stopped trying to do anything of use in the garden and is instead sitting on the back porch steps listening to Aziraphale read, who seems rather contented to do so out loud.

“Wait, stop,” Crowley says, sitting up abruptly. “Sorry— er— you’re— thank you for reading out loud, I enjoyed it, I just— I can hear the Them.”

“Not a problem,” Aziraphale assures him, placing his bookmark. 

Crowley stands up with some effort, and Aziraphale watches him cross to the back gate and open it up, waiting for the Them to come breezing by. They stop abruptly when they see him, clearly delighted, immediately bombarding him with questions. Through the open gate, Brian spots Aziraphale and waves at him enthusiastically. Aziraphale waves back. Pepper notices this exchange, ponders it for a moment, then grins wickedly and shoves Brian so hard he almost falls off his bike. 

“Who’re you?!” Pepper shouts.

“That’s Aziraphale,” Crowley says, looking back at him. “He’s a friend of mine from London. He goes to my church.”

“I think Brian fancies him!” Pepper exclaims, upon which Brian looks at her, positively horrified.

“Hey!” he shouts. “Not fair! I’ve never said anything about you fancying Mr. Crowley!”

Brian seems to realize he’s made an enormous mistake saying such a thing as soon as it leaves his mouth, because he’s biking away from her as fast as he can before Pepper can even start looking angry. Nevertheless, as soon as she realizes what he’s said, she’s blushing hard enough to rival her hair color, and off like a shot to follow him down the alleyway.

Adam stares after them with wide eyes, then looks back at Crowley. “Bye,” he says simply, then sets out to follow them, intent on watching what happens when Pepper finally catches him. 

Wensleydale makes to follow, but Crowley stops him, pulling the packet of dice out of his pocket and handing it to him. Wensleydale stares at them, his eyes wide behind his glasses, before looking up at him. “We always use Pepper’s dice, though.”

“Well, those are Pepper’s dice,” Crowley reasons. “These are yours. I ought to get Brian some, do you think?”

“Brian’s birthday was in February,” Wensleydale says.

“I know, but now he needs his own set,” Crowley points out. “That is, if Pepper doesn’t kill him.”

Wensleydale looks rather sheepish for a moment. “She’ll probably kill all of us. Thank you for the dice, Mr. Crowley. I hope I live to use them.”

“Happy birthday,” Crowley wishes him as he pedals off after the rest of the Them. He shuts the gate and walks back up to the porch and giving Aziraphale a rather exasperated look.

“That was quite eventful,” he comments.

“If I hadn’t needed a nap before, I definitely need one now,” Crowley tells him. “Apologies in advance, when I nap, it’s always a gamble on when I’m going to wake up.”

“Well, I’ll be here,” Aziraphale says.


Friday, June 15, 1990

Soho, London


Crowley comes into Anathema’s shop with a purple hyacinth and sets it down on the counter. “I’m sorry for snapping at you,” he says, before he can let his pride get the best of him. “I’d had a long day.”

Anathema inspects the flower, then sets it back down. “What do you want?”

“To apologize,” Crowley insists. “I also need to buy candles, but I’m mostly here to apologize.”

“Well, go buy your candles,” Anathema says. “Candles that I so graciously and kindly named after your snake because I’m a nice and good friend who brings you flowers to help you with your nicotine withdrawals.”

“Okay,” Crowley says, walking towards the back shelf. “I said I’m sorry. I brought you a flower that specifically means ‘I’m sorry.’ I’m very sorry.”

“I can really tell you mean that,” Anathema says flatly.

“I do!” Crowley insists, setting a candle down on the counter. “I’m sorry I snapped at you. And I’m sorry I… told you about my vibrator.”

Anathema stares at him for a moment, then cracks and laughs loudly. “You’re so fucking stupid.”

“Yeah, I know, thanks,” Crowley says quickly.

“I forgive you,” Anathema says, snatching the candle up. “I was being cranky, too. Clearly you just needed to spend some quality time with that glass of bourbon and a little more quality time with that vibrator.”

She laughs again while Crowley’s entire face turns red, mostly because she’s right.


Saturday, June 16, 1990

Soho, London


Crowley swings by the bookshop after work with the proposition of stopping by the cafe, having been craving an apple cider all day. He’s mildly surprised to find the shop closed, for it’s always been open when he’s come by in the past, even when it hadn’t necessarily been open to other people.

Crowley checks the shop hours on a sign in the window for the first time since meeting Aziraphale.

SHOP HOURS

MONDAYS: ERRATIC

TUESDAYS: UNPREDICTABLE

WEDNESDAYS: INCONSISTENT

THURSDAYS: TURBULENT

FRIDAYS: UNDEPENDABLE

SATURDAYS: VOLATILE

SUNDAYS: CLOSED

Crowley has to admit, his sense of humor over having a tendency to open at odd hours is very amusing, but it offers no hints as to when he’d be back in. Underneath the list is a smaller note about the shop being open whenever the owner had time for it to be open, so if the door is unlocked, to please come in. 

Hesitantly, Crowley tries the handle. It doesn’t budge. 

He sighs and gets back in his car, suddenly not quite craving an apple cider as much as he had been.


Sunday, June 17, 1990

London


Crowley often doesn’t go into conversations with a good plan about what he wants to say to Aziraphale. Normally, he sees him and just wants to talk to him, so he lets whatever comes out of his mouth first lead the way. He certainly doesn’t have a shortage of topics; every fifteen minutes something happens to him that he decides to quietly tuck away in his head to use as a future conversation topic. It might have something to do with being enamored with him, but Crowley doesn’t want to discuss that with anyone, even himself.

When he spots Aziraphale in the lobby after mass, he has no idea what his opener is going to be. However, he doesn’t get a chance to decide, because Aziraphale is pulled aside by Gabriel and another man Crowley recognizes from seeing on a regular basis, but doesn’t know the name of. They have a very succinct conversation with him, which appears to be less of a conversation and more of the two of them telling him things while Aziraphale nods silently and pretends to be enthralled. 

Crowley holds back, his curiosity insatiable but unwilling to interrupt, lest he manage to make Gabriel more suspicious. Finally, Aziraphale nods and says something very stiffly, and then turns and heads straight for the office. 

Crowley decides against bothering him, even though he really wants to.


Friday, June 22, 1990

London


“The garden looks very good.”

Crowley looks over his shoulder; Aziraphale is hovering on the outskirts of the garden, looking quite nervous. Crowley sits back, welcoming the excuse to take a break. “Thanks. I’m just weeding. Just about everything’s planted.”

“It looks very good,” Aziraphale says again.

“Thanks,” Crowley says, looking at him oddly. “You alright?”

“Fine,” Aziraphale says immediately. “Are you free this weekend? Would you like to come by the shop for a drink?”

Crowley sighs. “I’d love to, but Dagon has me working late tomorrow and Sunday. Most of next week, too.”

“Oh,” Aziraphale says, sounding very disappointed.

“It’s wedding season,” Crowley tacks on lamely. “I’ve been handling an awful lot of baby’s breath. I reek of it.”

“Does it not smell nice?”

“It smells like spit.”

“Oh. Well, I’m sorry to hear that,” Aziraphale says. “Though I’m sure you smell fine. You’re always wearing cologne.”

Crowley blushes quite hard. “Yeah, I guess.”

“Alright,” Aziraphale says. “Well. Michael said you were out here so I wanted to say hello. I have to go talk to Father Malachi.”

His tone of voice makes it sound like he’s in trouble. Crowley looks at him curiously. “Are you sure you’re alright?”

“Yes,” Aziraphale says quickly. “Yes, sorry, just— yes. Alright. Have fun weeding, I’ll be on my way.”

He leaves without saying anything else, before Crowley can even return the farewell.


Saturday, June 23, 1990

London


“Please tell me this is the last baby’s breath I have to handle,” Crowley says, exhaustion evident in his tone. They nursery had closed long ago, but he’s been in the back room handling flowers for hours, and he’s cut enough baby’s breath to last any bride a lifetime. 

“Yeah,” Dagon says, sounding just as tired. “Whatever. Just put them in water before you leave.”

“Right,” Crowley says, having already done so in anticipation for being able to leave. “Did it. Done. Completed.”

He takes his apron off and hangs it on the rack with more force than necessary. “I’m heading home.”

“Night, Crawley.”

Crowley pauses in the doorway. He stands there for a moment. “Crowley.”

“Huh?” Dagon asks, looking up from her desk.

“Crowley,” Crowley repeats. “You called me Crawley.”

“Oh,” Dagon says, sounding entirely unbothered. “Sorry. Force of habit.”

Crowley dislikes the implications behind such a statement, so he decides to head home rather than press for details. As he stands, he’s almost too exhausted to drive, so he shouldn’t tire himself out anymore.


Sunday, June 24, 1990

London


“Anthony?”

Crowley, who had almost entirely fallen asleep on the phone with Rose, jerks back awake. “Yeah?”

“Are you alright?”

“It’s wedding season,” Crowley says immediately, as though that’s a perfectly coherent explanation. 

“I’m sorry?” Rose asks.

“I’ve been handling a lot of flowers,” Crowley explains. “It’s wedding season. So people want flowers. For their weddings.”

“I see.”

“I’ve cut so much fucking baby’s breath,” Crowley continues.

Anthony .”

“I’m sorry. But I smell like spit. My hands just smell like spit all the time.”

“I take it you’re working hard, then?”

“I’ve been going in early and leaving late,” Crowley tells her. “I’d just got home when you called.”

“Oh, dear. Well, you didn’t have to answer.”

“I wanted to answer,” Crowley insists. “I want to hear about Spain. I just… started to doze off.”

“I can call another time, Anthony,” Rose says.

“No, no,” Crowley says. “It’ss fine.”

“Ah,” Rose says. “There’s that lisp.”

“Nooo,” Crowley groans, putting his head in his free hand. “I’m free now, I can talk—”

“You’re tired,” Rose says gently. “Go to sleep, Anthony. When’s a good time to call?”

Crowley thinks about it. “I’ve got next Ssaturday off.”

“Next Saturday,” Rose says, sounding as though she’s making a note of it. “I will tell you all about Spain next Saturday.”

“Okay,” Crowley says, finally accepting that they’ll have to postpone the conversation. “Alright. Okay. Have fun.”

“Oh, I will,” Rose says. “I got asked on a date.”

“What?” Crowley snaps.

“There’s the reaction I was looking for,” Rose teases. “I knew something was wrong when I said that earlier and you just hummed.”

“Mum—”

“Okay, goodnight Anthony.”

“Mum—”

“I love you!”

“Mum—!”

The only answer he gets is the dial tone.


Friday, June 29, 1990

London


Crowley’s phone is ringing when he gets home from work, and he catches it just before it goes to voicemail. “Hallo?”

“Anthony,” Aziraphale says, and he still sounds oddly nervous. “I was wondering if you might be able to get together this weekend.”

“Uh, yeah,” Crowley says absently, taking his shoes off while he talks. “Sure. I’m off tomorrow. I’m probably gonna sleep in, but I could come by around lunch.”

“Okay,” Aziraphale says. “Thank you.”

“What for?” Crowley asks, again noting his nerves.

Aziraphale takes a breath. “I… had something I wanted to talk to you about.”

Crowley stills, anxiety pooling in his stomach. “Yeah?”

“Just something I wanted to ask your opinion about,” Aziraphale says, rushed. “Since, you know, you have so many wonderful philosophies and all that.”

“Could you ask me now?” Crowley asks, knowing full well if he’s left to wonder what the question could possibly be, he’s not going to get a wink of sleep. 

“I’d rather ask in person,” Aziraphale insists. “Besides you sound… rather tired.”

Crowley is rather tired, but his curiosity is also insatiable, and his anxiety is making his brain itch. “Can I at least ask what it’s about? So I can think about my opinions beforehand?”

Aziraphale hesitates. “The Clergy.”

Crowley blinks; that hadn’t been what he’d expected at all. “The Clergy?”

“Yes,” Aziraphale says. “Like… priests and deacons and the like.”

“What could you be wondering about them?”

“I’ll explain tomorrow,” Aziraphale says quickly. “Thank you, Anthony. Goodnight.”

“Night,” Crowley says, but the only person listening is the dial tone.

He huffs, setting his phone back on the receiver and looking at Vesper, annoyed. “I think I’m worth a little more than being hung up on.”

She doesn’t answer.

Crowley rolls his eyes and turns towards his bedroom. “I’m going to sleep.”


Saturday, June 30, 1990

Soho, London


Crowley wakes up earlier than he’d have liked to; he lays in bed for quite a while trying to doze, but as soon as he remembers he has to go have some sort of Conversation (with a capital C), it’s useless to attempt. He drags himself out of bed, makes himself coffee, gets dressed, and forces himself to wait an acceptable amount of time before he leaves.

The shop is open, and Aziraphale is sitting at his usual spot behind the counter with a book in his hands. He looks up when he hears the bell, and he smiles at Crowley, but he still looks very stressed.

Crowley slides up next to the counter. “Hey,” he says. “What’s up?”

Aziraphale pauses. “This feels rather silly to explain now that I’m actually trying to do so, but I’d like to ask your opinion on a personal matter.”

“Shoot,” Crowley says, not sure how much longer he’s going to be able to wait.

“Well, I…” Aziraphale hesitates, clearly trying to figure out where to start. “I studied theology in school. I’m very, er, passionate about religion. In case you couldn’t tell. But, I also did it a bit because my… mum… thought it would be a good… path for me, I suppose. And when she got sick, she asked me to continue studying. She wanted me to go to seminary school. And now it’s been… a good few years since she passed away, and I still haven’t made good on that promise, and Father Malachi really wants me to enroll for the coming term. So I suppose I’m just… asking what you think I should do.”

Crowley thinks about it for a moment, his curiosity sated, now needing to come up with a proper response. “Are you interested in being a clergyman?”

“Yes,” Aziraphale says, though he sounds very uncertain.

“What sort of position?”

“I’ve always been very interested in being a deacon.”

Crowley speaks before he has a chance to filter what he wants to say. “Deacon is the most noncommittal position you could possibly pick.”

Aziraphale blinks. “I’m sorry?”

“It’s low effort,” Crowley says, figuring he might as well dig himself deeper while he’s standing in the hole. “Why not just become a priest? What major responsibilities does a deacon have? What’s so enthralling about becoming a deacon specifically?”

Aziraphale thinks for a moment. Crowley waits, then gets impatient, and asks, “Aziraphale, would it make you happy to go to seminary school? Would it make you happy to be a deacon?”

Aziraphale hesitates.

“Don’t do it,” Crowley tells him, in a very final tone of voice.

Aziraphale looks alarmed. “But—”

“If I ask you if it’s going to make you happy to pursue it, to spend the entire rest of your life doing it, and your answer isn’t immediately yes, you shouldn’t do it,” Crowley says seriously “My mum wanted me to be a lawyer, and I would’ve done it to make her happy, but when I was studying pre-law I was miserable all the time. And I thought, do I want to spend the rest of my life doing this? Sure, I’m decent at it, but it also makes me dread getting out of bed in the morning. The only reason I was waking up was to check on my plants. And then I thought about it, and I switched majors and now I work at a nursery and I don’t dread waking up in the morning.”

“But, I mean…” Aziraphale says slowly, “… I find it… interesting.”

“Well, I adore James Bond novels and movies, but I don’t want to be a spy,” Crowley reasons. “I’m nervous all the time. I’m nervous right now. Do you know how much worse my anxiety would get if I picked a job that would specifically heighten it? How are you ever going to enjoy living your life working in a church when going there once a week for an hour makes you miserable?”

“I’ve never said going to church makes me miserable,” Aziraphale insists.

“But it does,” Crowley says. “I can hear it in your voice. I can see it in your eyes. You hate going in there, so how are you ever going to be happy working there? Do you want my honest opinion? The institution of the Catholic Church is bullshit.”

Anthony ,” Aziraphale says harshly.

“It is!” Crowley exclaims. “It’s complete bullshit! It’s a fucked up organization! I can’t stand going to church, because there’s not a single person on Earth who’s going to have the same relationship with God as I do. Everyone worships differently, and that’s exactly how it should be. I hate convening with people who want to twist His words around and use His name in vain for their own agendas. That’s all it is— that’s all the bloody Bible is. God didn’t write that book Himself, it was written by men, and men are selfish and men have agendas and they will twist His words any way they can think of to convince people to listen to them.”

“If you don’t like going to church, why do you go?” Aziraphale asks severely.

“Because it makes my mum happy!” Crowley insists. “It all always comes back around to that, doesn’t it? I pray in my car in the morning and that’s enough for me to feel content. I disagree with too much the church does too severely to actually appreciate being preached to. And I think you, do, too, you just don’t want to admit it.”

“That’s not true,” Aziraphale says immediately. “I agree with a lot about the church. I think religion is a wonderful way to bring a group of people together. The Catholic Church isn’t that bad.”

Crowley leans against the counter, suddenly incredibly fervent about making a point. “The church is composed of the people, Aziraphale, and the people who compose the Catholic Church are violently against everything I am as a human being.”

“I’m well aware of the feeling, Anthony,” Aziraphale snaps. “But if the people make up the church, why shouldn’t I try to contribute to making it a more tolerant church?”

“You already make up the church just by attending,” Crowley says. “Clergymen aren’t better than other people, they’ve just chosen to devote their lives to God.”

“Does that not make them better?” Aziraphale asks. “Shouldn’t we all fully devote ourselves to Him?”

“He wants us to live our lives with Him in mind, and worship Him and remember He always has what’s best for us in mind,” Crowley says. “And He calls on very specific men to be clergymen. Every good priest I have ever met knows that’s what He wants them to be doing. Does God want you to be a deacon? Are you absolutely certain of it?”

Aziraphale doesn’t answer him.

“Don’t go to seminary school,” Crowley says finally. “Tell Father Malachi no, it’s not your calling.”

“He’s not going to accept that answer,” Aziraphale mutters.

“Doesn’t matter,” Crowley says. “He’s not a Godly man, anyways.”

“You don’t know that.”

“I know it’s a sin to go around chatting about things you hear in confession,” Crowley snaps. “Look. Aziraphale. Would you rather become a deacon and work at a church where you already have to walk on eggshells for the rest of your life? Or would you rather run your bookshop and just be left alone?”

“If I went to school and worked for the church, I wouldn’t have to walk on eggshells anymore,” Aziraphale insists, sounding incredibly pained.

Crowley pauses, considering his words. He takes a breath. “Aziraphale, that’s not true.”

“You don’t know that.”

“I know that for a fucking fact,” Crowley says sharply. “If God wanted you to be a deacon, you’d feel drawn to it. If you’re just doing it to try to prove that you’re not whatever you might be—”

“I’m not anything,” Aziraphale says stiffly.

“—to the people at your church, you’re doing it for the wrong reasons, like a thousand other clergymen who shouldn’t be doing what they’re doing.”

“I don’t want to disrespect my mother,” Aziraphale insists.

“I never disrespected mine,” Crowley points out.

“Your mum isn’t dead,” Aziraphale snaps. “Your mum can change her mind about what she wants you to be. About what she’s okay with you being. My mum can’t. I had to bury my mum with an incredibly rigid concept of what I’m allowed to do.”

“You’re allowed to do whatever you want!”

“Respect your mother and father!”

“My dad died when I was a teenager, Aziraphale! And I’ve never spent a minute of my life wondering whether or not I’m what he would’ve wanted out of a son! God bless your mum, may she rest in peace, but she hasn’t bound you to what you are and aren’t allowed to do.”

There’s a long pause.

“Do you actually want my advice?” Crowley asks. “Or are you just looking for someone to tell you what you want to hear? Because I won’t do that.”

“I want your advice,” Aziraphale says sincerely. “I value it. You’re… very smart. Especially when it comes to this.”

“Let me ask you something,” Crowley says. “Do you want to fall in love? Do you want to get married?”

“Deacons can marry,” Aziraphale says.

“You can become a deacon if you’re already married,” Crowley points out. “You can’t marry if you’re already a deacon. And you’re not married. Would you like to be?”

Aziraphale hesitates. “I don’t know.”

Crowley swallows. “Have you ever liked anybody?”

Aziraphale manages to hesitate even longer this time. “Yes.”

It takes all of Crowley’s willpower not to ask who. “Well, then, I think if you know you have the capacity to like somebody, and to desire an intimate relationship, you shouldn’t get a job doing something that doesn’t allow that.”

Aziraphale puts his head in his hands. He’s quiet for a very long time. “I’ve always wanted to get a cat.”

“Sorry?” Crowley asks.

“I’ve always wanted to get a cat,” Aziraphale repeats. “For the shop. Have it wander around. Probably sleep at the foot of my bed at night. But the shop has never felt like a permanent arrangement. Even if I kept it and went back to school, I worry it’s always going to be on the back burner.”

“Do you want it on the back burner?”

“No,” Aziraphale says immediately.

“Then don’t put it on the back burner,” Crowley says. “You’re not obligated to spend all your time at the church. It’s a place of worship. Worship there, and then come home to your shop and your cat.”

Aziraphale is quiet for a very long time. “It’s far too early for a glass of wine, isn’t it?”

Crowley checks his watch. “Ten ’til noon.”

They exchange a glance.

“Can you wait ten minutes?” Crowley asks.

“Patience is a virtue,” Aziraphale says lamely.

Crowley drums his fingers against the counter. Aziraphale sighs.

“No,” he says, sounding very defeated. “Come in the back, I’ll pour you a glass.”

“Don’t mind if I do,” Crowley says eagerly, following him to the back room.

Chapter Text

Sunday, July 1, 1990

London


Crowley is fortunate enough to go home on time, having talked his way out of staying late. He’s in the middle of changing out of his work clothes, when his phone rings. He kicks his khakis to the side, with a bit more force than necessary, and pulls his work shirt off, grabbing the first clean sleep shirt he spots (a rather faded Queen shirt), and then slides out of his room to grab the phone on its last ring.

“Hallo?”

“Oh, Anthony,” Rose says. “There you are.”

“Here I am,” Crowley says. “Is everything alright?”

“Of course,” Rose says. “I just… I called yesterday, but you weren’t around.”

Crowley remembers very suddenly that he was meant to call his mum the day before, and he blanches, his eyes wide. “Oh, God,” he says, sitting down. “I’m sorry, I— something else came up— I was…” having philosophical discussions with the man I fancy and getting drunk in the backroom of his bookshop.

“It’s fine, Anthony,” Rose says, though she does sound a touch hurt. “You’re an adult with a life, you’ve got friends, I understand. I’m glad you’re finding ways to occupy yourself.”

“I’m sorry,” Crowley says again. “I’m free to talk now. I need to make dinner, but I can put you on speaker and listen. The phone’s right here. I’d love to hear about everything I was dozing off during last weekend.”

Rose hums. “Well, I went on my date.”

Crowley sits up in his chair, very attentive. “So you said. What’s his name?”

“Arnold.”

“His full name.”

“Oh, Anthony, hush,” Rose says. “I’m in Spain, what are you going to do all the way from London?”

“I might call him.”

“Oh, be quiet,” Rose says, laughing. “It’s just good fun. You could do with a bit of fun, yourself.”

“Uh-huh.”

“When was the last time you went on a date, Anthony?”

Crowley thinks about it. “I believe it was a Queen concert in ’84. I wish I’d gone alone.”

“Don’t be like that,” Rose teases. “I’m sure she was very nice. You might call her again.”

Crowley plays with the cord of the phone nervously. “I doubt I could stand going to a concert nowadays.”

Rose laughs. “Getting up in your age, are you?”

“My knees keep giving me trouble.”

“Your dad had that problem.”

“Good thing I’ve picked a profession that doesn’t require me to kneel down every single day.”

Rose laughs, then coughs, then finishes laughing. “You’re a doll.”

Crowley hums, still playing with the phone cord. “Tell me about Spain.”


Friday, July 6, 1990

Seventh Session

Soho, London


“Oh, my God,” Anathema says, slipping past Crowley to push open the bookshop door and rush inside. She looks around the small space, marveling at how many books Aziraphale has managed to cram inside of it and still have it be relatively navigable. She turns back to Crowley. “I’m sorry for berating you for spending so much time here. It’s perfect.”

Crowley makes sure the door is shut behind them and smiles wryly at her. “Thank God I’ve finally garnered your approval.”

Newt laughs, more so at the face Anathema makes than Crowley’s remark, and then he’s immediately startled by the cat that leaps up onto the table next to him. He moves to stand next to Anathema again. “You didn’t tell me he had a cat.”

Crowley reaches out to pet it before he can stop himself. “I didn’t know he had a cat.”

“I didn’t,” Aziraphale says, emerging from the back room. “I’ve only had him since about four o’clock on Wednesday. He’s my newest addition.”

Crowley, who is quite enthralled with petting it, looks at him and can’t help himself from beaming. “Took my advice, then?”

Aziraphale skillfully avoids his eye, a sly grin on his face. “I certainly thought it over. I still need to have a conversation about it, but I’m certain you can guess my decision.”

Anathema exchanges a glance with Newt and quietly drops a thought into his head: Can these pillocks quit the aimless flirting and get to it already?

Newt snickers, then clears his throat. “So where would be best to play?”

“In the back room,” Aziraphale says cheerfully. “I cleared the table off, and there should be enough space for the four of us to sit on the couch, we just might have to squeeze.”

“I will happily sit in this one’s lap,” Anathema says, squeezing Newt’s arm. When Aziraphale turns around to lead the way to the back room, she gives Crowley a look, and he blushes without her even having to say what she’s thinking.


Saturday, July 7, 1990

London


“Oh, dammit,” Crowley mutters under his breath as he follows Aziraphale into the cafe. “We’re here on a book club day.”

“Well, we’ll just sit at our usual table then,” Aziraphale says, clearly trying to remain positive. Jasper is behind the counter, trying to at least look like he’s working while he’s listening in on the meeting. Camille is standing closer to the group, leaning against someone’s chair and looking rather enthralled.

Jasper sees Crowley and Aziraphale by the door and gives them a wave, sliding over to them as they slip into their usual seats. 

“Hi,” he says happily. “The usual, I’m assuming?”

“Yes, please,” Aziraphale says with a smile, while Crowley stares out the window into the street, mildly disgruntled. He waits for Jasper to return to behind the counter before he looks slyly at Aziraphale.

“He definitely fancies you,” he teases.

“What?” Aziraphale asks, blushing. “He certainly does not. Why would he?”

Crowley blinks, startled. “Why wouldn’t he?” he asks before he can stop himself.

Aziraphale gives him a shy sort of smile. “I wouldn’t exactly call myself the most attractive man in the world. I’m quite out of shape.”

Crowley swallows and vaguely wonders if it’s possible to stop yourself from blushing. It’s clearly not, because when he says, “You’re very attractive,” he blushes so hard he wonders how it’s not obvious to everyone in the world, including Aziraphale, that he fancies him.

“Oh,” Aziraphale says, and if Crowley weren’t an idiot and were looking even vaguely in his direction, he would’ve seen how hard he was blushing as well. “Er, thank you. You as well.”

Crowley stares out the window pointedly, wondering if it’s possible to die from blushing too hard, until Jasper returns with their usual orders. 

“Thank you, dear boy,” Aziraphale says, and Jasper's cheeks are tinged with a slight flush as he turns and makes his way back to the counter. Crowley can’t help but feel jealous, even though there’s absolutely nothing to be jealous over.


Sunday, July 8, 1990

London


“I’m going to have that Conversation,” Aziraphale says quickly to Crowley in the lobby.

“Ah,” Crowley says. “With a capital C?”

Aziraphale smiles nervously. “Yes, I suppose that’s the best way to describe it.”

Crowley smiles back at him. “Good luck.”

“Thank you, dear boy,” Aziraphale says; he touches his arm once, lightly, and then turns to make his way towards the office. Crowley swallows, blushing fiercely, feeling like he’s been glued to the floor of the lobby. He feels a bit too much like a teenager over being called a term of endearment, and he manages to both despise himself for it and feel endlessly giddy.


Friday, July 13, 1990

Soho, London


“You really don’t need to be helping me with this,” Aziraphale says, although he doesn’t look at Crowley while he talks. Instead, he looks closely at the shelf he’s in front of, then pulls two books off of it and hands them to Crowley, who’s standing behind him with an already impressive stack in his hands.

“S’not a big deal,” Crowley assures him. “It’s not like I’ve got anything better to be doing.”

“I’m sure there are many better things to be doing on a Friday morning,” Aziraphale says. He rearranges a few books so they’re more to his liking and then wanders further down the shelf. Crowley resists the urge to tell him being around him is the best possible way to be spending a Friday morning. Or any morning. “Did I hand you a historical fiction?”

Crowley struggles to pull a book out of the pile he’s holding. “Here.”

Aziraphale takes it absently and slides it into a very specific spot on the shelf. “Never understand why people can’t just put books back in their right sections.”

Crowley doesn’t respond, mostly because he’s the kind of person who’s far too lazy to put a book back where he found it, and he’s been guilty of doing that more than once in Aziraphale’s shop. “At least you don’t use the Dewey Decimal system.”

Aziraphale groans. “Don’t even get me started on that. The Dewey Decimal system is proof of Hell, mark my words.”

Crowley laughs, following him with his stack of books. “How long have you owned the shop, then?”

“Oh, about seven years now, something like that,” Aziraphale says absently. “I’ve just… always loved books, I suppose…”

“Well, you very much give off the vibe of a bookshop owner, so good on you for sticking to an aesthetic,” Crowley says.

Aziraphale gives him an odd look, amused. “Meaning?”

“Meaning you look like someone who owns a bookshop,” Crowley says, cracking a smile. “Or a librarian. Or an English professor. If I saw you on the street, I’d assume you had one of those three occupations.”

Aziraphale looks him up and down. “Well, if I saw you in the street, I certainly wouldn’t assume you were a gardener.”

“What would you assume?” Crowley asks, giddy over the shameless flirting even if it’s only one sided.

Aziraphale thinks about it. “I’d assume you were in some sort of punk band.”

Crowley tries and fails to hide how much that delights him. “You think I’m punk?”

“Bit hard not to, with the outfits you wear,” Aziraphale says. “And all those piercings in your ears.”

“What’s wrong with my piercings?” Crowley asks, grinning. “I’ll have you know I did all of them myself.”

“Sounds dangerous,” Aziraphale teases.

“My mum pierced her ears with a needle and a potato, I was just following the example set for me.”

“You pierced the cartilage of your ear on your own?”

“Yeah.”

“Interesting. How many times did they get infected?”

Crowley averts his gaze. “Dunno what you mean.”

Their laughter is mingled with the jingle of the bell from the door, and Aziraphale quickly clears his throat and tries to compose himself. “I’m by the historical fiction if you need assistance!”

There’s a brief moment where Aziraphale peacefully returns to reshelving, and Crowley spends all of it staring at him, and then Gabriel appears at the end of the aisle. He opens his mouth to speak, then spots Crowley and stiffens. “Er— hello, Mr. Crowley.”

“Hi,” Crowley says, unable to wave while holding a stack of books.

Gabriel looks pointedly at Aziraphale, who seems very uncomfortable now. “What’s he doing here?”

Aziraphale and Crowley both blink at the bluntness of the statement. “He’s helping me reshelf,” Aziraphale says calmly. “Is there something I can help you with? In the realm of books, perhaps?”

“Father Malachi informed me you weren’t going to be attending seminary,” Gabriel says.

“I’ve never heard of that book, dunno if he carries it,” Crowley says before he can stop himself; Aziraphale laughs, but Gabriel looks far from amused.

“Why aren’t you going to attend seminary?” he asks harshly, and the smile immediately drops off Aziraphale’s face. “I thought you were set on becoming a priest.”

“I wasn’t set on it, I was considering,” Aziraphale reasons. “And I’ve decided not to. It’s not my calling.”

“Aziraphale, you’ve always been very passionate about your relationship with Christ,” Gabriel says, and Crowley has to resist his urge to roll his eyes. “Whatever made you change your mind?”

“I had a very enlightening conversation,” Aziraphale says simply, avoiding Crowley’s gaze. “It helped me realize that some men are destined to become men of the church, and some aren’t. I’m simply not one of those men, so I’ve decided to leave it alone. It’s not like I’m going to stop coming into church altogether, Gabriel. Surely, you know me better than that.”

“I do know you,” Gabriel says stiffly. “I know you belong in a position like that. I know it would be good for you.”

Aziraphale takes a breath. “It’s simply not my calling, Gabriel. I’m sorry. I don’t really see why it’s such a big deal. I’m more than happy to continue work at the church, I’d just like to make my shop my first priority.”

Gabriel sighs deeply. “Aziraphale, I’d like you to consider what you’re doing. You’re disrespecting your mother’s dying request to sell secondhand books.”

“Hey, he’s not disrespecting anything,” Crowley snaps; Gabriel looks at him sharply, but Crowley doesn’t waver. “We don’t live our lives being dictated by the dead. That’d be an awfully shitty world to live in. If he’s not being called by God to be a member of the Clergy, he shouldn’t pursue it.”

Gabriel stares at him for a moment, then looks back at Aziraphale. “You’re taking theological advice from the gardener?”

“Okay,” Aziraphale says defensively. “Don’t be rude, he happened to study theology in college and he has very intellectual opinions about Catholicism.”

Gabriel looks at Crowley. “Like what?”

Aziraphale looks mildly panicked at him for a moment, but for once Crowley manages not to get caught in his anxiety. “Well, for one, I believe that many people define ‘taking the Lord’s name in vain’ very incorrectly.”

Gabriel narrows his eyes at him. “How so?”

“Well, I don’t think saying oh, my God, takes His name in vain,” Crowley explains. “I think what taking His name in vain means is when men on Earth try to use the name of God to express opinions that God clearly doesn’t hold.”

“Such as?” Gabriel asks.

“Well,” Crowley says slowly, grasping at straws trying to think of an example that doesn’t have anything to do with being queer. He recalls a very animated conversation he’d had with Anathema and scrambles to put it into his own words. “Like how there are a great deal of corporate men who are, er, for lack of a better phrase, richer than God, who insist on being Godly men, who insist that God would want them to be as rich as they are, when in fact Jesus said to his followers that it is very hard for a rich person to enter God’s kingdom.”

“That’s in the Book of Matthew, I do believe,” Aziraphale tacks on helpfully. Crowley nods in agreement.

Gabriel thinks about it for a moment. “I suppose you’re right,” he says finally, “that’s a fair interpretation. But I don’t think anybody should be taking advice from you over our priest.”

Crowley grits his teeth together and forces a smile. “Well, I’m not making anybody do anything. Free will and whatnot.”

Gabriel purses his lips, then looks at Aziraphale. “I still think you should have another discussion with Father Malachi.”

“I’ve had plenty of discussions with Father Malachi,” Aziraphale says cooly. “I’ve made my decision. I have a bookshop to run. And I have a cat now.”

Gabriel is clearly very displeased with his response, but he doesn’t argue with him. “I’ll see you on Sunday,” he says instead, then gives one last disgruntled look in Crowley’s direction and leaves.

Crowley waits for the bell above the door to stop jingling. “Don’t think he likes me very much.”


Saturday, July 14, 1990

London


“Speak of the devil.”

Crowley winces as he comes out of the backroom; he quickly wonders if he could pretend to hear the phone ringing and run back inside to avoid having to talk to Hastur, but he knows neither he nor Dagon are that stupid.

He shuts the door and slides up behind the counter; Hastur and Dagon are standing on the other side. Hastur grins wickedly at him. “All hail Satan.”

“All hail Satan,” Dagon echoes, giving Crowley a similar look.

“Hi,” Crowley says, giving them a little wave. “Long time no see.”

“We was just talkin’ about you,” Hastur says, leaning against the counter. “Bells was right. You do look older.”

Crowley wonders if he means that in a bad way, or in a way that implies he could one day be considered a silver fox. He knows better than to ask, though. “Well, we’ve been out of school for quite some time.”

“Still can’t believe you converted back,” Hastur says. “You were so eager to get on board.”

“I don’t think eager is the right word,” Crowley says. “It was more of a… slow… saunter.”

Hastur rolls his eyes. “Don’t remember it being a slow saunter when you suggested we steal communion wine.”

“That was your idea?” Dagon asks, enthralled, and Crowley blushes.

“Well, I— sure, I guess that’s one way to interpret it,” he says awkwardly. “It was honestly more of a group decision.”

“It was definitely a you decision,” Hastur says. “I’ll tell you what, though, while I’m here, why don’t you come, too?”

“Oh, come off it,” Dagon laughs.

“Sorry?” Crowley asks nervously.

“I’m invitin’ Dagon here to a celebration of sorts next month,” Hastur says. “Why don’t you come for old time sakes?”

“Oh, no—” Crowley says immediately.

“Oh, I think so,” Dagon says, grinning wickedly. “For old time sakes? Crawley?”

“I’m Catholic,” Crowley says, offering her a nervous smile. “I’m really not looking to go around breaking anymore commandments.”

“Would your mum get mad?” Hastur asks, then snickers.

“Well, I suspect she might, but I also wouldn’t be too happy with myself,” Crowley reasons.

“Ain’t your mum out of the country?” Dagon points out.

“Is she really?” Hastur asks.

“I believe she is,” Dagon continues. “I won’t tell if you don’t.”

“I certainly won’t,” Hastur agrees, “but this one’ll probably tell on himself.”

“I don’t want to be a part of whatever ritual you’re doing, sorry,” Crowley says as politely as he can. “I’m, er… Catholic.”

“I know you’re Catholic,” Hastur snaps. “S’bloody annoying, damn. I’m inviting you to a birthday party, Crawly.”

“Oh,” Crowley says. “Well… ngk. I’ll think about it, I guess. Whose birthday?”

“Ligur’s.”

“Ah,” Crowley says; Ligur had always been the more tolerable of the two. “I’ll definitely think about it. Is, er… Bells going?”

Hastur grins at him. “Of course. I’m sure she’d love to see you.”

Crowley shrugs. “Maybe.”

“He’s gonna come,” Dagon assures Hastur. 

“Maybe,” Crowley says, more forcefully.

“Bells is always happy to see you, Crawly,” Hastur teases.

Crowley swallows. “Excuse me, I think the phone is ringing,” he says, slithering back towards the back room.


Sunday, July 15, 1990

London


“Mr. Crowley.”

Crowley winces, then glances over his shoulder at Gabriel, who’s hovering near the edge of the garden.

“Hi,” Crowley says, no enthusiasm in his voice. “Inquiry about the garden?”

“Something else, actually,” Gabriel says, taking a step forward. Crowley stands up, mildly alarmed; at his full height, he’s taller than Gabriel by an inch or two, but he’s also clearly not very strong. Still, he tries to come across as someone not to pick a fight with.

“I simply think,” Gabriel says slowly, “that it would be a very good idea for you to stop putting ideas into Aziraphale’s head.”

Crowley cocks his head as though he’s confused. “This is the first I’ve heard of any such thing.”

“Don’t play dumb with me,” Gabriel says severely. “He’s been working his whole life to become a priest.”

“Actually, he was interested in becoming a deacon,” Crowley says casually. “But it’s also not any of my business what he does and doesn’t do with himself. It’s not really any of yours, either.”

“It becomes my business when I think he’s straying from the path of God,” Gabriel says.

“Oh, sod off,” Crowley snaps before he can stop himself. “Why does that matter?! You should be concerned with one name in His book, and that name is yours. What other people do and don’t do in their free time honestly isn’t your problem!”

“I make it my business to spread the gospel,” Gabriel says harshly. “It should be every Christian’s business to spread the gospel. And it should be every Christian’s business to keep their brothers from sin.”

Crowley struggles to bite his tongue. “Aziraphale asked me for my advice. I gave it to him.”

“That advice being?”

“Whether or not he should attend seminary,” Crowley says slowly. “I listened to him explain it to me. I listened to him tell me about his mum, and I asked him questions about what he wanted to do with his life, and I told him I thought it would be best if he ran his bookshop and stayed out of the clergy.”

“Why?” Gabriel insists. “What did you ask him?”

Crowley swallows. “I asked him if it would make him happy. I asked him if he would enjoy getting out of bed everyday to come to his job. I asked him if he would ever like to have a life outside of the church.”

“Such as?”

Crowley hesitates. “I asked him if he’d ever like to fall in love.”

“Why do you need to know?”

“Because most people want love,” Crowley snaps. “Most everybody wants somebody to love. And there are some who don’t, and that’s fine. Keen. Good for them, as long as they’re happy being clergymen or nuns or monks or whatever the fuck they want to be in the world, religious or otherwise. But there are plenty other people in the world who’d like to find someone to fall in love with and settle down with and marry and be sweet to and that’s also fine. So, I asked him if he’d ever like to fall in love, if that was the sort of life he wanted for himself, or if he’d be content devoting his life to the church. I’m assuming you know which one he picked, and there’s nothing wrong with it.”

“There’s something very wrong with it, and you know exactly what it is,” Gabriel says sternly. 

Crowley feels sick to his stomach, but he plays dumb. “What’s wrong with wanting to fall in love?”

“What he wants is not love,” Gabriel says. “It’s a sin.”

“Love does no harm to a neighbor. Therefore love is the fulfillment of the law,” Crowley says with a forced smile. “Romans 13:10.”

Gabriel narrows his eyes. “Why are you so keen on defending him?”

“Why are you so hellbent on damning him?” Crowley counters.

Gabriel flushes. “Mr. Crowley, you are on sacred ground.”

“A church that preaches hatred is not sacred,” Crowley hisses before he can bite his tongue. 

Gabriel looks incredibly taken aback. “Well, then I expect I won’t be seeing you back at the services.”

“You’ll be seeing me,” Crowley says smugly. “I’m not gonna leave him behind to be guilt tripped and dragged into a life he doesn’t want for himself. So sorry to disappoint you, but he’s made friends with someone who has many opinions about the Catholic church, opinions he agrees with, so I will be damned if you don’t see me at every Sunday service. Every Holy Day. You can’t get rid of me that easily.”

Gabriel’s entire face is flushed. “Father Malachi is not going to like the sorts of seeds you’re planting around his church.”

“Well, the garden certainly looks lovely,” Crowley says, gesturing to his handiwork. “I’m only encouraging people to have healthy relationships with God. Do you not think God loves all his children?”

“God hates queers.”

Crowley stares at him, trying desperately to maintain his composure. “God loves all His children.”

Gabriel sneers, turning away. “You keep telling yourself that.”


Friday, July 20, 1990

Soho, London


“Are you sure you’re alright?” Aziraphale asks; Crowley looks regretfully into his wine glass and then drinks all that remains in it, which is quite a lot of wine. When he sets his glass down, Aziraphale is staring at him with wide eyes.

Crowley sighs. “I had another… interesting conversation with Gabriel.”

Aziraphale’s face falls. “Oh, dear,” he says quietly. “What did he say?”

Crowley swallows regretfully. “He told me God hates queers.”

Aziraphale starts a little bit. “I… really don’t like that word.”

“Neither do I, when it’s being sneered at me,” Crowley admits.

“I’m sorry,” Aziraphale says. “Did he say anything else to you?”

“Well, he said some things,” Crowley says. “And then I said more than a few things to him in return.”

Aziraphale’s eyes widen. “Such as?”

“Such as, I… er… well, he was asking about you at first—”

Aziraphale groans.

“—and about what I’d said to you to get you to change your mind about, well, you know, and I mentioned asking you if you could see yourself falling in love, and it led into a whole other conversation that wasn’t exactly the most pleasant thing on Earth.”

Aziraphale hesitates. “You really ought to stop going in.”

“I’m not stopping if you’re not stopping,” Crowley says stubbornly.

 Aziraphale frowns at him. “Why don’t you just go to church in Tadfield?”

“Will you go to church in Tadfield with me?” Crowley asks.

“Er—” Aziraphale says, flushing slightly and looking away. “I can’t.”

“Then I’m going to keep going to church here,” Crowley says firmly. “And I will continue to do so until you decide not to. And if you decide to keep going forever, then I’ll just keep going forever, too.”

Aziraphale gives him a frustrated look, and he opens his mouth to argue, but before he can get a word in, the bell above the door in the front dings delightfully, drawing his attention. 

“Er— I’m afraid I’m closed up for the night!” he calls warily.

“It’s just me!” chimes a cheerful voice, and Aziraphale relaxes a little bit. Crowley looks at him oddly, and opens his mouth to ask who it is, but before he can Uriel appears in the doorway of the back room, smiling brightly.

“Hey,” she says to Aziraphale, and then her eyes flicker to Crowley. “Oh, hi Mr. Crowley.”

Crowley offers her a small wave. “Hi.”

She appears to mentally collect some context clues. “Having a drink, then?”

“One or two,” Aziraphale admits. “Would you like to join us?”

“No, I’m driving,” Uriel says lightly. “You know how I get with red wine. Thank you, though.”

“Well, alright,” Aziraphale says, relaxing back into his chair. “Something you needed? In the realm of books perhaps?”

“Not this evening,” Uriel admits. “That nursery around the corner closed. I liked it so much, and I didn’t even know it was going out of business. The kids want to start a garden this summer and I was wondering if you knew where another one might be.”

Aziraphale looks cheerfully at Crowley, who is in the process of refilling his glass. “Mr. Crowley is a gardener! He works at a nursery!”

“Huh?” Crowley asks, looking up at her. “Oh, er, yeah.”

“Do you really?” Uriel asks, smiling widely.

“Yeah,” Crowley says, sitting back on the couch. He tells her where the nursery is. 

“Oh, that’s even more convenient than the one that closed!” she says. “I wonder how I managed to miss it.”

“Easy to miss if you’re not looking for it, I suppose,” Crowley says; he takes a sip of his wine. “We sell just about everything. Ask for me if you ever stop by.”

“I’ll be sure to!” Uriel says; she turns to Aziraphale. “I heard you decided not to attend seminary after all.”

Aziraphale nods. “Decided to focus on the shop.”

Uriel hums. “I know you’d been hemming and hawing over that for a long while. I’m sure it’s much less stressful now that you’ve made a decision.”

“Very,” Aziraphale says. “I got that cat I’d always talked about getting.”

Uriel’s face lights up. “Did you really? What’s its name?”

“Rochester,” Aziraphale says.

“Like from Jane Eyre,” Crowley adds.

Uriel looks at him. “You’re familiar with Jane Eyre?”

Crowley shrugs. “I’ve read it.”

“You don’t look like the type,” Uriel says with a smile.

Crowley curls up, slightly defensive. “I love Jane Eyre.”

“Do you really?” Aziraphale asks.

Crowley looks at him. “I talked about it with you for like an hour!”

Uriel bounces her shoulders. “Well read,” she comments, looking at Aziraphale brightly. “Wish my Raph were like that.”

Crowley blinks. Did she just imply—?

“Speaking of Raphael,” Uriel continues, “I have a formal, in advance invitation to brunch. August fifth for his birthday.”

“Oh,” Aziraphale says. “Well—”

“You can bring Mr. Crowley, if you like,” Uriel says, her eyes twinkling.

Crowley stiffens. “I wouldn’t want to intrude.”

“Nonsense!” Uriel says. “You’re both invited. The Mason Jar, August fifth, noon. Wear something sensible.”

She gives Crowley a look, then smiles widely.

“Alright, well, I must be off.” She checks the clock on the wall. “Getting late, and I have to tuck the kids in, or else they never get to bed. Lovely to see you both, always good to stop by the shop. I’ll be sure to check out the nursery!”

She gives them both a wave and disappears as quickly as she arrived.

Crowley looks at Aziraphale. “Has she always been such a whirlwind?”

“Afraid so,” Aziraphale says. “I would say I wonder how Raphael keeps up, but I know he doesn’t bother trying.” He rolls his eyes and takes a sip of his wine. “What were we talking about?”

“Don’t remember,” Crowley says flippantly. “You know I’ve read Pride and Prejudice, too?”

Aziraphale’s eyes brighten. “Have you really?”


Saturday, July 21, 1990

London


“Hey,” Dagon snaps, startling Crowley out of his daydream. “Someone’s asking for you.”

Crowley frowns. “Who’s asking for me?”

Dagon gives him a look that suggests he’s illiterate. “How should I know? It’s not that witchy girl who comes in asking for weird stuff, and it’s not Bells. It’s some weird looking lady with a birthmark on her cheek.”

“Oh,” Crowley says.

“You know her?” Dagon asks.

“Yeah, sorry, I’ll go help her out,” Crowley says.

“She your girlfriend?” Dagon asks.

Crowley gives him a weird look. “She’s married. She goes to my church.”

“That’s not what I asked,” Dagon says.

Crowley shuts the door to the back room rather firmly. Uriel is standing on the other side of the counter; when she sees him, she smiles. “Well, don’t you look nice in khakis!”

Crowley blushes. “Er, thanks,” he says awkwardly. “What do you need help with?”

“Just wondering what sort of plants are good for kids,” Uriel says. “I have an eight year old and a six year old.”

Crowley nods like that makes sense to him. “And they want to garden?”

“Yup!”

Crowley nods again. “Edible things, or flowers?”

“Oh, flowers, probably,” Uriel says. She leans onto the counter a little bit. “Although, if you have any vegetable recommendations, so they might actually be interested in eating them, I’ll gladly take them.”

Crowley grins. “Carrots can be good for that. Fun for them to rip out of the ground. Cherry tomatoes, too. On the flower side of things, I’d recommend marigolds and snapdragons.”

“Well, aren’t you knowledgeable,” Uriel comments. “Well read and a gardener.”

“Well, that is my job,” Crowley says awkwardly. “I went to school for gardening, so I… know about plants.”

Uriel laughs. “Do you and Aziraphale grow anything together?”

Crowley blinks. “I keep houseplants,” he says. “Orchids. Peace lilies. Jade. Got all kinds of succulents, really. I dunno if Aziraphale keeps plants.”

“I think he used to, but he doesn’t really have a green thumb,” Uriel admits. “You might be able to help him with that.”

Crowley hesitates. “Er… Aziraphale and I are… just friends, you know.”

“Are you?” Uriel asks, cocking her head to the side. She leans onto the counter, close to him, and says, “He’s gay, you know.”

Crowley blushes, frustrated. “That’s not any of my business.”

“Well, you spend an awful lot of time together,” Uriel shrugs.

“You’ve seen us together twice,” Crowley says sternly. “And even if he was gay, I’d want him to tell me himself.”

Uriel opens her mouth to say something, clearly taken aback, but Crowley steps out from behind the counter and walks past her. “Let me show you some cherry tomato plants,” he says in his best customer service voice, obviously done with the conversation.


Sunday, July 22, 1990

London


Although Rose is currently in Belgium, Crowley would quite like to close his eyes and sit back in his chair and pretend that she is, instead, sitting in the chair across from him at the table. He rarely puts his table to good use, anyway, and he’s certain she wouldn’t approve of him housing his phone on it, but it’s simply the most convenient surface to place it on. 

With his eyes closed, and an apple cider in his hands that’s long since gone cold, it’s easy to imagine his mother is sitting right across from him. But then, it’s not, because overseas calls are tricky and fickle and when Rose’s loud laughter dissolves into a cough, there’s a flurry of static, and Crowley is forced to open his eyes and remember that he’s alone in his flat with his telephone on speaker, and that his mother is across the channel in a different country.

She coughs for a long time. Crowley sits forward in his chair, leaning towards the phone and wishing it were her. 

Something is wrong. He can tell something is wrong, but she’s in such a good mood, and asking what’s wrong would ruin it. Asking when she’s coming back would ruin it.

Crowley sits back in his chair. He’s twenty-nine years old. He shouldn’t want to be in the same room as his mother as badly as he does. What would he even say to her if she were here now? How would he explain the tears rolling down his cheeks? 

Right, mum, everything’s good, swear on it. Anxiety is just a bit much, as of late. See, this church I’ve started attending actually isn’t as good as I thought it was, and I got called a slur, and the funny thing is I usually don’t even mind the word all that much, but I haven’t been able to stop thinking about it. And it’s not like I can stop going because Aziraphale attends there, too, and I can’t just leave him alone, because if they’re harassing me, they’re harassing him twice as bad, because I think he might be gay, but he’s in denial about it because the only thing he’s been preached all his life is that God hates gay people. Doesn’t exactly help that I fancy him. Oh, yeah, by the way, I’m gay. Anyways, how was Belgium?

Crowley wipes his eyes bitterly with the heel of his hand and takes a deep breath. Rose isn’t going to comfort him about it. She’s too odd about anything and everything queer to be of any actual comfort. If Crowley really, genuinely wanted her to comfort him, he knows she’d be able to do it over the phone. But he can’t explain the scenario. It’s far too much to lay on her without a warning, and it would ruin her good mood, and he’ll be damned before he comes out over the bloody phone.

He wipes what remains of his tears on his sleeve and sniffs, leaning forward to refocus his attention on the story she’s telling. 

“Are you listening?” she asks after a brief pause.

“Yeah,” Crowley assures her. “I’m listening.”

He hesitates. “Hey, I love you.”

Rose hesitates. “I love you, too, Anthony.”

Crowley nods. That’ll be the extent of the comfort he’ll be receiving. It’s as much as he ever gets.


Friday, July 27, 1990

London


Crowley wakes with a migraine. 

“Ohhhh,” he groans, rolling over in bed miserably, immediately plagued by the idea that a smoke would help him feel better. Stop the migraine, wake him up, probably relax him for all of two minutes before the underlying tension that is so ever present in him seeps back in.

Crowley bites the corner of his pillowcase and grinds his teeth. It does absolutely nothing to help his migraine, or help him wake up, or make him feel relaxed in the slightest. He lays in bed for a few moments, trying to enjoy some semblance of sleeping in on his day off, but he can’t even manage to get himself back to dozing, so he drags himself out of bed, puts his robe on so he’s not  walking around in just his boxers, and goes to make himself some tea.

He checks on Vesper, noting that he needs to feed her, and then gets his mug out and puts the kettle on, before going to fetch the last of his remaining St. John’s Wort. He’s pulling it out of the vase when he pauses, glaring at a particularly droopy houseplant.

He squints. “Have you got an excuse for looking like that?”

The plant doesn’t answer, obviously, but that doesn’t stop Crowley from continuing to glare. He glances from the flowers he’s holding, to the underperforming plant. “You think just because I’ve stuck you next to some shitty, wilting flowers, I’ve suddenly lowered my standards? I’ve got news for you, idiot, I’m about to grind these up and put them in my tea. Would you like me to grind you up and put you in my tea?”

The plant doesn’t respond, primarily out of fear, but also because it is a plant.

“I didn’t think so,” Crowley snaps, turning away. “You’d taste horrid anyways!”

Crowley makes his tea and drinks it and tells himself it ought to be helping with the withdrawal symptoms, which are still rather terrible but not as bad as they were. He finishes his tea and tries to think about doing anything remotely productive, but the migraine is still getting to him, so he sighs and goes back into his room, divesting himself of his robe and digging his vibrator out from under his mattress.

After a frankly unremarkable orgasm and a hot shower, Crowley’s migraine has subsided enough to allow him to put a tape on and make himself an omelette.


Saturday, July 28, 1990

London


“Whatever happened to your ficus anyways?” Aziraphale asks curiously, following Crowley around the nursery. Not his nursery; Crowley won’t spend anymore time in there than necessary, and he certainly won’t have Dagon judging his purchases. 

Crowley thinks about how he took his lingering frustration out on his ficus the evening prior, considering how it still hadn’t perked up by the time the sun was starting to set. “It died.”

“Oh, it died?” Aziraphale asks. “Such a shame. You take such good care of them.”

Crowley shakes his head, and, in a manner that reminds him quite unfortunately of his father, says, “My efforts tend to go unappreciated.”

“Sorry?” Aziraphale asks.

Crowley sighs. “Nothing.” 

He inspects the leaf of the ficus he’s been examining. “This one looks fine.”

Aziraphale looks at it, more focused. “Oh, yes. Very nice.”

“No,” Crowley says to him sternly. He looks menacingly at the ficus. “It’s just fine. It doesn’t look nice. It’ll get an ego, Aziraphale. Compliments go straight to their heads.”

Aziraphale blinks, then smiles, amused. “They don’t have heads.”

“You know what I mean,” Crowley says. He picks the ficus up with very little effort. “They can’t be praised. If I praise them, they underperform. They need to understand I accept nothing less than perfection.”

Aziraphale follows him to the register. “You’re funny, Anthony.”

Crowley bites his lip. He, on the other hand, doesn’t mind praise much at all. He looks around frantically for something to change the subject to and stops very abruptly in front of a collection of succulents. “You should get something for the shop.”

“Oh,” Aziraphale says, nearly running into him. “Oh, no, I don’t think so. I’m quite terrible with plants.”

Crowley shifts so he can free up one hand and points to a ruby’s heart. Aziraphale eyes it nervously. “I don’t know if—”

“They barely need water,”  Crowley insists. He grabs it off the shelf and hands it to Aziraphale.

Aziraphale takes it slowly, then seems to remember something. “My cat—”

“It’s non-toxic,” Crowley says, grinning at him. “I’m a professional, Aziraphale, don’t try to argue with me about plants.”

Aziraphale huffs, but there’s a small smile playing on his lips that makes Crowley’s heart do cartwheels. He turns back around to continue his walk to the register and tries to ignore the beating of his heart.


Sunday, July 29, 1990

London


Crowley is in the middle of unbuttoning his shirt to start getting ready for bed when someone knocks on his door. He tenses, then forces himself to relax his shoulders and buttons only the bare minimum amount of buttons back up to make himself decent, then goes to see who it is.

Anathema is waiting patiently on the other side of the door; she looks sleepy, which is understandable, considering the hour. Crowley frowns when he sees her, confused, and leans out of his apartment a little to look down the hallway.

“Hey,” he says. “Where’s Newt?”

“Home,” Anathema says calmly. “Getting into bed, probably.”

“Did you two have a fight?” Crowley asks. “How’d you get here?”

“Bus,” Anathema shrugs. “And no. Let’s go for a drive.”

“Oh,” Crowley says. He goes to check his watch, only to realize he’s already taken it off. “Now? It’s late.” 

“Best time for a drive,” Anathema insists.

Crowley hums. “Okay. Let me get my keys.”

“That was easy,” Anathema comments while he locks his door, once he has his keys and has put shoes on.

Crowley shrugs. “Anything on your mind? You seem like you need to talk.”

“Nah,” Anathema says. “You seem like you need to talk, though.”

Crowley looks at her skeptically. “Why do you say that?”

“You’re withdrawn. I went by Aziraphale’s shop, asked him if he’d seen much of you, and he said yes, and when I asked how you’d been doing because I haven’t seen much of you, he said you’d seemed… down. Quiet. Sort of curled in on yourself.”

Crowley toys with his keys as they make their way downstairs. “I’m never curled in on myself.”

“Right now you’re very curled in on yourself,” Anathema comments. “So let’s go for a drive. Tell me about it.”

Crowley is quiet until he actually gets behind the wheel. “I had another unfavorable conversation with Gabriel?”

“What about?”

Crowley tells her about it.

“Yeesh,” she says, sitting back in the passenger seat. “He said that to your face?”

“He also said love between gay men isn’t love, it’s a sin,” Crowley says bitterly, starting the car.

“You don’t believe that, though,” Anathema says.

“I know I don’t believe it,” Crowley snaps. “It’s just… I know he believes it. I know so many people believe it. And I…”

He glances at her, then sighs and focuses on driving for a few moments. “You’re gonna make fun of me.”

“Nah,” Anathema assures him. “Free pass tonight. No teasing. Spill.”

Crowley bites his lip. “I like him a lot, Anathema…”

The corners of her lips quirk up in a knowing smile. “Yeah?”

“Yeah,” Crowley says miserably. “And it’s so stupid. He’s so in denial about even the possibility of being queer, and I know I should just leave it be, I know I should stop entertaining the idea of courting him—”

“Courting him?”

He glares at her.

“Okay, sorry,” she says with a smile. “Continue.”

“I just know it’s a lost cause,” he says sadly. “I know I should move on. Start looking elsewhere.”

“You’ve never looked elsewhere before,” Anathema points out. “You don’t go on dates, Anthony. You don’t flirt. You go to work and you go home and I think you secretly hope and maybe even pray that the love of your life will just bump into you on the street.”

Crowley huffs. “It’s none of your business what I pray about.”

“Okay, well, I’m just saying,” Anathema says, “if you’re praying for a soulmate, you literally met this guy at church.”

“He’s not queer,” Crowley says. “And even if he is, he’s… not ready to even think about it. And I feel… weird… hanging around… like I’m waiting for him to come to terms with it so I can jump on him.”

“Anthony,” Anathema says seriously. “You’d never jump on anyone. You’re a sweetheart.”

“I am not,” Crowley snaps. “I’m… punk.”

“You’re faux punk,” Anathema argues. “And you’re not the kind of person who would ever take advantage. You clearly like him a lot, you want to see him happy and be near him even if you’re not getting anything out of it. You’re still going to that awful church just because you don’t want to leave him by himself.”

“I could argue that I am actually continuing to go for very selfish reasons.”

“And those would be?”

Crowley glances at her, then looks back at the road. “I like looking at him.”

Anathema gives him a knowing look. “You can look at him outside of church.”

“Yes, but he looks nice in slacks,” Crowley says quietly. “Ngk. I feel… dirty saying that.”

“Don’t,” Anathema says immediately. “He’s cute. You like him. You wanna take him on a date. There’s nothing bad about that.”

Crowley shrugs noncommittally. “I just… feel bad saying he’s… hot, or something.”

“You never act like this,” Anathema says. “I’m gonna kick this Gabriel guy’s arse. He’s getting into your head. Couple months ago you openly admitted to wanting to snog him.”

“I did not openly admit to that,” Crowley says. “I… implied it. And I… still would.”

Anathema sighs. “Are you planning on making a move at all?”

“No!” Crowley snaps. “What am I, insane? He told me he’s not gay, Anathema, I don’t want to force him to do anything. I just… I just like being near him… I don’t want to fuck that up.”

“Sure,” Anathema says. “But wouldn’t it be nice to snog him senseless?”

Crowley blushes furiously. “Shut up.”

She grins wickedly at him. “He looks like he gives awfully good hugs. I’m just saying, wouldn’t you like to cuddle up with him? Maybe sit in his—”

“I don’t want to talk about it!” Crowley exclaims, pointedly avoiding her gaze. If he were being honest with himself, he’d allowed those sorts of thoughts to wander into his head on more than one occasion, usually while he was trying to get to sleep, but he’s not exactly keen on discussing it.

Anathema sighs, grinning at him. “Tell me this, Anthony,” she says. “If you could take him on any sort of date, where would you take him?”

Crowley blushes, and doesn’t answer for a long time. Finally, he says, “Honestly? You’re going to make fun of me.”

“I said I wouldn’t.”

Crowley looks at her skeptically, then takes a deep breath and says, “Just a walk in St. James Park.”

She raises her eyebrows. “Really? That’s all?”

“Yeah,” Crowley says, not looking at her. “Feed the ducks and... shit like that, I don’t know. Shut up.”

“I didn’t say anything.”

“You were thinking it.”

“Pet name?”

“Hm?”

“Pet name? If you had to pick one?”

“To call him?”

“Yeah.”

Crowley thinks about it for a long time. Anathema eggs him on. “You seem like the type to use babe.”

“Ngk.”

“Oh, c’mon. Remember that guy you were talking to, what, two years ago? You went on, like, two dates with him, you called him babe.”

“We went on two dates.”

“Point taken. Darling?”

“Tragically, I’m not Freddie Mercury.”

“Oh, you wish you were. Sweetheart?”

Crowley hesitates. “I could use sweetheart, yeah.”

She looks at him suspiciously. “You have one in mind, what is it?”

He grins, shaking his head. “You’re gonna laugh at me.”

“Just tell me!”

Crowley bites his lip. “Angel.”

“Oh!” Anathema exclaims, leaning back in her seat. “Shut up! Anthony, you’re such a sap! That’s gay!”

“I am gay!” Crowley argues. “And I’m not a sap.”

“You’re such a sap. The sappiest. You’re just dripping.”

“Ew.”

“Angel. That’s so domestic. Wow, it really is your dream to get married and be grossly affectionate with someone, huh?”

Crowley pointedly doesn’t look at her. “Dunno what you mean.”

Anathema sighs. “Alright,” she says. “I have something to admit.”

“Hm?”

“I got you out for a drive and got your guard down for a reason.”

Crowley tenses. “What?”

“Nothing bad,” Anathema assures him. “Jeez, you’re so wound up. You really should get a boyfriend, because you need an orgasm.”

Crowley grits his teeth. “I have orgasms,” he says, with a great deal of effort.

“This is a different kind of orgasm, and you need one,” Anathema says. “Anyways, I need to go down to Worthing. My mum is cleaning out the house and wants a bunch of things taken away and she asked me and Newt to come help her with it.”

Crowley narrows his eyes at her. “Yeah, and?”

“And the Sergeant is being really difficult about it,” Anathema says. “He’s on about some village down near Oxfordshire and Newt isn’t sure if he can get away. Plus, you know how his car is.”

Crowley winces at the thought. “Yeah, and?”

“Come to Worthing with me?” Anathema asks hopefully.

Crowley hesitates. “When?”

“Next weekend?”

“Can’t, sorry. Next weekend is D&D, first of all, and you always rag on me for flaking. And Saturday I’ve got to be in Tadfield and Sunday I’ve got… a birthday party.”

“A birthday party?” Anathema asks, incredulous. “Now you’re just lying to me.”

“I’m really not,” Crowley says. “It’s for one of Aziraphale’s friends. We’re going to brunch.”

“Okay, first of all, going to brunch with him is kind of gay. Secondly, fine, I’ll cut you a deal. We can go down to Worthing the weekend after next, and I’ll come down to Tadfield with you this weekend.”

Crowley taps his fingers on the steering wheel. “I need something else.”

“Oh, picky,” Anathema whines. “What?”

“Another birthday party.”

“Somebody’s popular.”

“Not by choice,” Crowley says. “It’s for Ligur.”

“Ligur?”

“Yeah.”

“Why’d you agree to go?!”

“I didn’t have much of a choice, truthfully. Come with?”

“Why?”

“Bells is gonna be there.”

“Oh. Alright, fine, I’ll come with. But you have to invite Aziraphale to come to Worthing, too.”

“What?!” Crowley looks at her with wide eyes. “Why?!”

“Because you like him, you twat,” Anathema snaps. “It’ll be cute. I’ll even sit in the backseat voluntarily so you two can bond over being dorks. It’ll be fun.”

“No. I’ll go to the birthday party alone.”

“Oh, I’ll go to the party even if you won’t invite him,” Anathema says sweetly. “But I’ll suggest a game of Seven Minutes in Heaven and make sure the bottle lands on you and Bells.”

Crowley glares at her. “”I’m gay.”

“Does she know that?”

“She will when we’re trapped in a closet together!”

“You’ve kissed her before.”

Crowley looks back at the road. “That’s different. I was seventeen. Whatever. I’ll ask Aziraphale to come.”

Anathema beams at him. “You’re a sweetheart.”

“I am not,” Crowley grumbles. “I’m punk. I’m punk and queer and I only kiss men.”

“When was the last time you kissed a man?”

“Unimportant. What’s important is that I do kiss them.”

“And Bells.”

“Once.”

Anathema laughs. “Tell me, what’s stopping me from suggesting a game of Seven Minutes in Heaven while we’re in Worthing?”

Crowley pales. “I’d die, that’s what’s stopping you.”

“Here’s what I think,” Anathema says. “I think you’re a huge sap, who fancies Aziraphale a little more than you’d like to admit.”

“I’ll admit to a lot, don’t test me.”

Anathema raises her eyebrows. “Oh yeah? Like what?”

Crowley hesitates. “Nothing. Never mind.”

“I’ll admit to a lot, don’t test me,” Anathema repeats, her tone mocking. “Just say you want to snog him.”

“I’ve already said that.”

“Well what else could you possibly want to do?”

“I don’t know,” Crowley says defensively. “Just… sappy… romantic shit. I don’t know. I just like him, okay? It’s not like I can do anything about it.”

“You could if you wanted to,” Anathema points out.

“But I don’t want to,” Crowley insists. “I’m fine with just being friends. It’s fine.”

“It’s not fine, you need a shag,” Anathema says. “And even more than that, I think you’re severely touch-starved.”

“I’m not touch-starved.”

“You come home from work and get a rush out of letting your snake curl up on your arm.”

“Okay? And? You’re saying you wouldn’t get a rush out of that?”

“I’m saying I think you’d much rather come home to a husband than to a snake.”

“Well, I’m saying you should try letting a snake curl up on your arm. It’s delightful.”

“Anthony, Vesper is lovely, but which would you prefer: coming home to your flat to Vesper, or coming home to a cozy little bookshop and getting properly snogged before you go to bed?”

“I think I prefer driving you home and never speaking about this again,” Crowley says, flashing her a wry smile. 

Anathema rolls her eyes. “He’s coming to Worthing! You can’t stop it! You two are going to be forced into the domestic situation of moving furniture with one another.”

“Good, maybe he’ll snap at me and I’ll stop liking him,” Crowley says bitterly.

“Or maybe you’ll feed the ducks in St. James,” Anathema teases, and Crowley blushes for the rest of the drive.

Chapter Text

Friday, August 3, 1990

Seventh Session

London


Newt makes several notes in his notebook before he shuts it with a tone of finality, startling everyone else at the table. “Alright,” he says. “That seems like a good stopping point for tonight.”

Crowley checks his watch. “We’ve hardly been at it an hour.”

“I could go for more of the game, personally,” Aziraphale offers.

Newt shakes his head. “No, that’s enough for tonight.”

“You alright, babe?” Anathema asks.

“Yeah,” Newt assures her. “It’s just— since Aziraphale joined, the campaign’s moving a little faster than expected. He’s really good at solving my puzzles.”

Aziraphale beams. The action makes Crowley feel warm in the chest. He takes a sip of his drink and pointedly ignores it. 

“We have five more sessions to go,” Newt continues, “and I don’t want to rewrite anything. The ending I have planned is pretty great, I think you’ll find. So mostly I’m just stalling for time.”

“Well, that’s alright then,” Crowley says. He stands from the couch, and his knees crackle, and Anathema laughs at him.

“Someone’s getting old,” she says.

“I’m twenty-nine,” Crowley mutters, taking his empty wine glass to the kitchen.

“If it’s not too much trouble, would you mind giving me a lift back to my shop?” Aziraphale asks Newt.

Newt stiffens. “Remind me where you live?”

“Soho.”

Newt ponders this. “Sure. Dick and I can do that.”

Aziraphale hesitates. “Who’s… Dick?”

Newt lights up. “My car! Dick Turpin. It’s a Wasabi.”

“Never heard of it,” Aziraphale admitted. Although, to be honest, he’d never heard of a lot of things that had to do with cars. The only reason he’d ever been able to spot Crowley’s car without being led to it was because he vaguely knew what a car built in the 1920’s looked like. “Why do you call it Dick Turpin?”

“Dick Turpin was a famous highway man,” Newt says excitedly. “It’s a sort of joke. It’s called Dick Turpin, because everywhere it goes, it holds up traffic!”

“Ah,” Aziraphale says, not enlightened in the slightest. “That’s very clever.”

“I’m staying here for the night,” Anathema says, stretching out on the couch and putting her feet up on the coffee table.

Crowley catches her out of the corner of his eye. “Feet! Floor!”

Anathema pouts and places her feet back on the ground. Aziraphale looks at her curiously. “Why are you staying the night?”

“Oh, don’t get jealous,” she teases, and Crowley turns to stare at her in horror from the kitchenette. She ignores him. “I’m going with Anthony to Tadfield in the morning. It’s going to be so fun, because he’s so cheery in the morning.”

“Oh,” Aziraphale says, a smile tugging at the corner of his lips. “Yes, I know. I went up to Tadfield with him in June. He’s certainly something in the early morning.”

“Oh, certainly something, is he?” Anathema asks, looking over Aziraphale’s shoulder and wiggling her eyebrows at Crowley.

“I get it, I’m cranky,” Crowley snaps. “I like my sleep. Leave me to it.”

Aziraphale turns to look at Crowley. “You’ll be back in town for Sunday, though, won’t you, dear boy? For brunch with Uriel and Raphael?”

Anathema’s mouth falls open at the unprompted pet name use. Newt even notices, glancing between Aziraphale and Crowley with a sly grin on his face. Crowley stammers for a moment, having noticed the pet name and perhaps nothing else about the sentence. Aziraphale hasn’t seemed to concern himself with it’s usage.

“Yeah,” Crowley finally manages. “Yeah. Yeah. I’ll be back in time on Sunday. Early.”

“Cranky, then?” Aziraphale asks with a knowing smile, and Crowley turns around and grabs the closest thing sitting on the counter to occupy himself with so Aziraphale can’t see him blushing.

Once Aziraphale and Newt are gone, Anathema stretches out on the sofa and grins lazily at Crowley, who’s loitering in the kitchen. “You wanna know what that was?”

“Huh?” Crowley asks.

“Flirting,” Anathema says. “Shameless flirting.”

Crowley shrugs. “Don’t think he was doing it on purpose.”

“He called you dear boy!”

“He calls a lot of people that!” Crowley insists. “He calls Uriel dear girl and— and the girl at the cafe, too. He says shit like that all the time. It’s not a big deal.”

“Uh-huh,” Anathema says, resting her head against the arm of the couch. “Never understand how you can manage to be so head over heels for someone and still deny affection to your dying breath.”

“I am not head over heels for him,” Crowley snaps. “I’m… I just fancy him, okay? And he’s not even queer.”

“That’s honestly so debatable,” Anathema points out.

“Unless he tells me himself,” Crowley says, “he’s not queer.”

“Fine,” Anathema says with a sigh. “Head to bed, lover-boy. We’ve got an early start tomorrow, and I’ve been well informed on how cranky you get.”

“Just for that comment, I’m not making you coffee in the morning,” Crowley says bitterly.


Saturday, August 4, 1990

Tadfield


Anathema takes the liberty to wander the village while Crowley is ushered down to the church by Mr. Tyler, who is very much in a twist about how long it’s been since his last visit. She finds him again when he’s making his way back home.

“You seriously grew up here and never invited me down?” she asks. “This place is gorgeous. It’s so peaceful, and tranquil, and happy and just… it feels like a proper home.”

The edges of Crowley’s lips curl up into a small smile. “Yeah, it does. Quite untouched by the outside world.”

“I was thinking about that,” Anathema continues. “Shouldn’t the A18 come right through here?”

Crowley shrugs. “Should. Doesn’t. Changes course five miles back, detours in a semicircle, and continues on its way.”

“Why?”

“I don’t know, it’s not like I personally asked them to,” Crowley says. “It just happened. None of my business why, really.”

Anathema points down the road as they near Crowley’s home. “Who lives there?”

Crowley follows her trajectory. “Oh, that’s Jasmine Cottage. No one lives there. Least not right now, anyways.”

“Huh,” Anathema says, in a vaguely interested way.

Crowley looks at her oddly. “Why?”

“No reason,” Anathema says innocently.

When they arrive back at Crowley’s house, he’s halfway up the walkway when he realizes Anathema stopped near the gate. He stops and looks back at her curiously. “What?”

Anathema points to the fence, where the only thing visible of Adam Young’s normal confident presence is his dark, tousled hair and his dark brown eyes. “We have an admirer.”

Crowley raises his eyebrows when he sees the shyness radiating off of him. “Hey, Adam.”

Adam clears his throat. “Hallo,” he says, unslouching so his entire face was visible over the fence.

Anathema regards him for a moment. “Who’re you?”

“I'm Adam Young,” he says. “I live just down the lane.”

“Oh,” Anathema says, recognition dawning. “Yes. I've heard of you.” 

Adam preens.

“Anthony said I was to be sure to keep an eye out for you,” she goes on.

“I’m well known around here,” says Adam proudly.

“Born to hang, my mum says,” Crowley chimes in.

Adam grins brightly at him. “Is she your girlfriend, Mr. Crowley?”

Anathema and Crowley both laugh.

“No, no,” Crowley says, highly amused. “We’re just friends.”

“He’s not my type,” Anathema assures him.

“And she’s definitely not my type,” Crowley says, which elicits another round of giggles from the two of them.

Crowley clears his throat. “Adam, this is Anathema Device. I’ve mentioned her once or twice.”

A glimmer of recognition flashes in Adam’s eyes. He looks curiously at Anathema for a long moment, then says, “Look, excuse me for asking, if it’s not a personal question, but are you a witch?”

Anathema blinks, then gives a suspicious glance at Crowley, then looks back to Adam. “Sure. Some people might say so. I’m an occultist, really.”

“Oh,” Adam says, cheering up. “Well. That’s all right, then.”

She looks him up and down. “You know what an occultist is, do you?”

“Oh, yes,” says Adam confidently.

“Well, so long as you’re happier now,” said Anathema. “I’m taking liberty over the situation. Would you like a lemonade? I could do with a drink myself.”

Crowley glances at her, but doesn’t protest.

Adam, looking delighted over the opportunity to hang around the coolest person he knows, and the pretty girl he just met, nods enthusiastically and hops down from the fence, running around to the gate.

Anathema holds it open for him. “And… Adam Young?”

He pauses, looking up at her. “Yes?”

“You were thinking, nothing wrong with my eyes, they don’t need examining, weren’t you?”

“Who, me?” asks Adam guiltily.

Crowley takes the liberty of actually gathering the lemonade while Adam and Anathema carry on their conversation. 

“All my family have had occult powers,” she tells him. “Going all the way back. We can find ley lines.”

Adam nods enthusiastically, sitting down at the table. “Right. What’s ley lines?”

“Invisible lines of force,” Anathema explains, sitting down across from him, “linking places of power.”

Adam holds his head in his hands, fascinated. “Amazing, there being all these invisible lines of force around and me not seeing them!”

“And we can see auras,” Anathema adds.

“And they are…?”

“A sort of colored force field around someone,” Anathema explains. “Everyone’s got one. I can look at it’s strength and color and tell how you’re feeling.”

“That’s brilliant!” Adam exclaims. “Why don’t they teach about them in school?”

“School is a repressive tool of the state,” Anathema says flatly.

Crowley sets a glass of lemonade down in front of Adam. “Cheers, I’ll fuckin’ drink to that.”

“Anthony,” Anathema chides, though admittedly the look of elation and surprise on Adam’s face at hearing a grown-up cuss is quite adorable. 

Crowley shrugs and sits down between the two of them, passing a glass of lemonade to Anathema. Adam takes a sip of his, then asks, “What color is Mr. Crowley’s aura? I bet it’s something super cool. Like black.”

Crowley preens a little bit, and Anathema rolls her eyes. “Nothing cool about having a black aura. If your aura is black, that’s nary a good sign.”

“Why?” Adam asks.

“Means you’re sick, or you’re angry,” Anathema says, glancing at Crowley. “And Anthony is hardly either of those.”

“Gee, thanks,” Crowley says.

“What color is his aura, then?” Adam asks eagerly.

Anathema sits back in her chair and stares at him for a long moment; Crowley squirms. Finally, she smirks. “It’s pink.”

Adam laughs, and Crowley blushes. “It is not. You’re so lying.”

“Not lying,” Anathema says proudly. She puts a hand up to the side of her mouth, indicating that she only means to speak to Adam, even though Crowley can still clearly hear her. “He’s a very loving person. And he fancies someone, which adds to it.”

Adam looks delighted by this news, holding his glass of lemonade tightly, while Crowley looks mortified. “That’s not true,” he insists.

“Is it her?” Adam asks.

“No!” Crowley exclaims.

“Someone who goes to his church,” Anathema says teasingly. “But that’s all you’re going to get out of him.”

“So what color’s my aura, then?” Adam asks.

Anathema stares at him for a long moment, then frowns. She stares at him for a moment longer, squinting, then relaxes and shakes her head. “I’m sorry, Adam. I can’t see your aura.”

Adam deflates. “But you said everybody’s got one.”

Anathema shrugs. “I don’t know, hon. It’s an art, not a science. You’re in great shape.”

Adam sighs and takes a long sip of his lemonade. Then, he brightens and looks at Crowley. “You know, my birthday is coming up.”

Crowley nods. “I know, you told me back when,” he says, scrambling to remember the date. “Twenty… second?”

“Yeah!” Adam exclaims. “You should come into town.”

He leans in closer to Crowley and whispers, as though it’s a secret, “I’m going to get a dog.”

“A dog?” Crowley echoes, raising his eyebrows. He has a hard time envisioning Mr. Young buying Adam a dog. “What sort of dog?”

Adam sits back and shrugs. “Dunno. But you should come into town to meet him.”

Crowley takes a sip of his lemonade. “I’ll have to see. Depends if I can get off work. But I do have a present in mind for you.”

Adam perks up. “What is it?”

“Well, if I tell you, that ruins the surprise, now doesn’t it?” Crowley asks with a grin.

Adam grins widely at him, squirming in his seat. “Can I have a hint?”

Crowley hums. “It’s Dungeons and Dragons related.”

“Dice?” Adam guesses eagerly.

“Maybe,” Crowley says. “And maybe something else.”

Adam seems satisfied with such an answer. He takes a long sip of lemonade, struggling not to spill because of the wide smile on his face.


Sunday, August 5, 1990

London


Crowley picks Aziraphale up about twenty minutes past eleven, the two of them having made the mutual decision to attend mass earlier that morning. Aziraphale slides into the passenger seat, and Crowley tries not to let his eyes linger on how he looks in his slacks and his blue button up and his bowtie. He sighs a bit heavily and tears his gaze away. “Hey.”

“Oh,” Aziraphale says, looking at him. “Er— hey.”

Crowley’s lips quirk up into a smile. “Don’t sound so excited.”

“I am… excited,” Aziraphale says slowly. “I like Uriel. And her children are nice, and Raphael is… tolerable.”

“Sounds like a grand time,” Crowley says, putting the Bentley into gear.

“Oh, wait,” Aziraphale says, holding something out to him.

Crowley looks down at it. It’s a card and a pen. He looks at Aziraphale. “What’s this?”

“Card,” Aziraphale says simply. “And a gift certificate. For Raphael. Here, sign.”

“You want me to sign it, too?” Crowley asks.

“Well, did you get him your own card?” Aziraphale asks.

“No.”

“Then sign.”

“But—” Crowley starts to say, and he really does start to say this makes us look like a couple, Aziraphale, and she’s already assuming things, but he bites his tongue. Aziraphale isn’t an idiot; Crowley knows him well enough to know that.

He takes the pen and the card and signs his name and hands them both back to Aziraphale. He looks over it as Crowley pulls away from the curb. “A.J. Crowley?”

“Mhm.”

“What does the J stand for?”

“James.”

“Oh, how nice,” Aziraphale says brightly. Crowley lets himself smile over the compliment.

Crowley knows vaguely where he’s going, but he keeps quiet so he can concentrate, because he despises having to ask for directions. They’ve almost arrived, when Aziraphale clears his throat very quietly and says, “By the way, you look very, er, nice.”

Crowley takes his eyes completely off the road to stare at him. “What?”

“Watch the road!” Aziraphale exclaims nervously, and Crowley tears his gaze away from him and returns it to the street. Aziraphale instantly relaxes back into his seat. “I said you look very nice, is all. Red is— is a good color on you.”

Crowley can feel the tips of his ears burning. “Thanks,” he says quietly. “You look nice, too.”

“Oh, thank you,” Aziraphale says, with a warm smile. 

Crowley drums his fingers on the steering wheel, trying not to overanalyze the exchange.

“She should’ve just called it lunch,” he says abruptly.

Aziraphale tilts his head. “Sorry?”

“It’s almost noon,” Crowley says. “It’ll be lunch time by the time we actually eat. That’s not brunch at all.”

“What makes a meal brunch, really?” Aziraphale ponders.

“The time,” Crowley says. “It’s a meal that happens between breakfast and lunch. Brunch.”

Aziraphale hums. “I think any regular meal you have before noon is just breakfast,” he reasons. “I think what makes a meal brunch is the contents of it.”

Crowley grins at him. “Such as?”

“Cheese and champagne, obviously,” Aziraphale says, and Crowley laughs.

The Mason Jar is a small restaurant with dozens of tables crammed into a space that isn’t quite big enough for them all. Aziraphale does all the talking at the hostess stand, which Crowley finds incredibly charming. Uriel and Raphael are already there, so the two of them are led through a winding maze to a table towards the back of the restaurant, where the couple is seated with their children.

Uriel waves enthusiastically when she spots them, and stands up when they near the table. “I’m so happy you could come!” she exclaims, giving them each an awkward side hug over the table. She lays her hands on the shoulders of who looks to be her eldest child. “Mr. Crowley, this is my oldest, Daniel.”

She lays a hand on the shoulder of her daughter. “And this is Ariel.”

Crowley shakes both their hands. “Nice to meet you.”

Uriel sits back down as Crowley and Aziraphale take their seats and she leans over to her children. “Mr. Crowley is a friend of Aziraphale’s.”

Crowley doesn’t like the way she says friend, but he lets it slide and forces a smile.

“Hi,” Raphael says suddenly, drawing his attention.

“Er, hi,” Crowley says, realizing it would be far too awkward now to reach across the table to shake his hand. “It’s nice to meet you, I’ve heard a lot about you.”

“And I about you,” Raphael says stiffly. “So nice of Aziraphale to finally bring you around.”

Crowley and Aziraphale exchange a glance; neither of them quite know how to respond to that, so Aziraphale hands the card across the table. “Happy birthday.”

“Oh, how sweet,” Uriel beams. “I’m just so glad the two of you could join us.”

Crowley nods, mentally preparing himself for the emotional toll the following meal is going to take on him.


Friday, August 10, 1990

London


Crowley is drumming his fingers loudly against the steering wheel, clearly annoyed. Aziraphale glances over at him, as he’s been doing for the past several minutes as Crowley grows more and more frustrated. 

“I told her seven-thirty,” Crowley says without being prompted. “It’s ten after eight.”

“I’m sure she has a very good reason,” Aziraphale says calmly. “And we’ve got all the time in the world, it’s not like we need to be down there by a certain time.”

Crowley shrugs; when his shoulder’s fall, it releases about half the tension in his body. “Yeah, I guess you’re right.”

They lapse into quiet silence, until Crowley winces and sinks down in his seat a little. Aziraphale frowns and looks down at him. “What are you doing?”

“I know them,” Crowley mutters, nodding out the window to where Sergeant Shadwell and Ms. Potts are making their way inside.

“Oh,” Aziraphale says simply. “Well, I think they’re coming over.”

“Ngk,” Crowley bites out.

“Anthony, you have a 1924 Bentley, you’re a bit noticeable.”

“1926.”

Aziraphale rolls his eyes. “Whatever. You can’t hide by sliding down in your seat, you drive a very distinct vehicle.”

Crowley gives him a look. “Very distinct vehicle, do you live in 1955?”

Aziraphale raises his eyebrows. “Somebody’s cranky.”

“I’ve been working all day.”

“So have I. Roll your window down.”

Crowley grumbles but does so, sitting back up to strike up a conversation with Ms. Potts. 

“Good evening, Anthony,” she says cheerfully. “Waiting on someone?”

“Anathema,” Crowley says shortly. “Headed down to Worthing to help her mum out.”

“Oh, how nice,” Ms. Potts says. “A little holiday?”

“Not really,” Crowley says. “Had work today. Have work again on Sunday when I get back.”

“But we’ll have fun, I’m sure,” Aziraphale offers.

Ms. Potts looks at Aziraphale with a twinkle in her eyes. “Who’s this, then?”

“This is Aziraphale. He’s a friend from church. He’s joined our, er, monthly meetings,” Crowley ends lamely, unsure of how to explain Dungeons and Dragons to her.

“A friend from church,” Ms. Potts says fondly. “Well, it’s nice to meet you. I’m Marjorie, and this is Mr. Shadwell.”

“That’ll be Sergeant Shadwell,” Shadwell corrects from a few paces behind her.

Aziraphale nods. “Pleased to meet you Marjorie. You as well, Sergeant.”

Shadwell nods stiffly, and Ms. Potts gives them both a smile. Fortunately, at that exact moment, Anathema makes her appearance, and Crowley perks up.

“Here’s the lady of the hour,” he says, and he doesn’t notice, but Aziraphale looks at him fondly. “Sorry to cut the conversation short, but we really should be on.”

“Of course,” Ms. Potts says. “You lot drive safe. Always a pleasure, Anthony. So glad to meet your friend!”

Again, Crowley doesn’t like the way she says friend, but he keeps it to himself as he rolls the window back up.

“A sergeant, wow,” Aziraphale says quietly once they’re out of earshot. “Did he serve in World War II?”

Crowley laughs. “No way.”

“Oh,” Aziraphale says, as Anathema comes to the door. He opens the door and steps out so she can climb into the back. “He seems too young to be a World War I veteran, though.”

“Perhaps the lovely Ms. Device— who is almost an hour late, by the way— could explain it to you,” Crowley says.

Anathema huffs, but doesn’t argue with him. “Explain what?” she asks, as Aziraphale climbs back into the passenger seat and shuts the door.

“How exactly is Sergeant Shadwell a— er— sergeant? If he’s not a veteran?” Aziraphale asks, glancing back at her. “Also, hello, lovely to see you.”

“Aw, thanks for the warm greeting, you’re the sweetest man in the car,” Anathema says teasingly.  “Shadwell’s the Sergeant of the Witchfinder Army.”

“That what?” Aziraphale asks.

“The Witchfinder Army,” Anathema repeats with a smile. “It’s as crazy and ridiculous as it sounds. Newt’s the Private.”

Aziraphale blinks. “Aren’t… you a witch, though?”

“I sure am!” Anathema says brightly.

“Does Newt know that?”

“Oh, yeah,” Anathema says. “It’s kind of a joke. He’s not gonna snitch on me, though. He likes me too much. And it’s not like they ever find witches, anyways. All Newt does is cut out newspaper clippings. Besides, Ms. Potts used to do some occult stuff on the side. Something tells me Shadwell’s a lot more lax about it than he used to be.”

“Madame Tammy draws aside the veil or something like that,” Crowley mumbles.

“Yeah, something like that,” Anathema agrees. “Anyways, Worthing?”

“Worthing,” Crowley says, pulling away from the curb. “I could’ve had us there an hour ago, if someone hadn’t taken her sweet time. But I’ll get us there before ten.”

Anathema grins. “You know, you are the grumpiest optimist I’ve ever met.”

“Seconded,” Aziraphale says with a smile.

“Heigh ho,” Crowley says flatly.


Saturday, August 11, 1990

Worthing


They’d made two trips to the charity shop Anathema’s mum had directed them to go to before Crowley decides it’s appropriate to take a break, and by take a break he means sneak down to the beach.

“Anthony, it’s hot,” Anathema complains, even as she follows him. “And nobody brought a suit. Not even you.”

“I’m not saying get in the water, I’m just saying look at it,” Crowley insists, leading the two of them down closer to the shore.

It takes no time at all to find a vendor selling ice cream, and the three of them settle a comfortable distance from the crowded shore and try to eat their respective confections before they melt.

“You two are crazy,” Anathema says through a mouthful of ice cream, “wearing pants in this heat.”

“You’re the crazy one wearing a dress to move shit around,” Crowley says; his popsicle drips a line down his hand, and he licks the melted ice cream all the way back up to its source. He doesn’t notice how Aziraphale watches him the entire time he does it, then looks away with a faint blush. 

“Besides,” Crowley continues. “At least I’m wearing a tank top, unlike the maniac to my left who’s wearing a bloody button up.”

Aziraphale laughs a little. “You’re only jealous because you can’t pull off the look.”

Anathema laughs loudly while Crowley pouts. The three of them stand in silence for a moment. 

“Has Newt ever come down with you?” Aziraphale asks politely.

“Uh-huh,” Anathema says, mid-lick. “Tons of times, for all sorts of reasons. He’s met my mum and all that junk. I’d tell you where the best spot to go skinny dipping at night is, but this one—” she nods to Crowley, “—is way too uptight.”

“I’m not uptight,” Crowley says flatly.

“You’re way too much of a pussy to go skinny dipping, and you know it,” Anathema says, not looking at him.

“I absolutely would go skinny dipping.”

“You absolutely would not.”

“I jumped in a lake on New Year’s in 1973.”

“With your clothes on?”

“Doesn’t matter if I had clothes on or not, I have Raynaud’s and I jumped in a lake in January. I’m not a pussy.”

“If you’re not a pussy, deepthroat your popsicle right now.”

“No.”

“Pussy.”

“There are children here.”

“They’re all down on the beach. Do it.”

“No.”

“Do it, pussy.”

“This is peer pressure. This is bullying and I won’t stand for it.”

“I know you’re fully capable.”

“It’s cold.”

“It’s hot out.”

“What if it breaks?”

“That’s the price you’re gonna have to pay.”

Crowley laughs. “I hate you,” he says with a smile, and then does it.

Aziraphale starts a bit. “Oh, dear.”

Crowley takes the popsicle back out of his mouth and immediately bites almost half of it off. “That almost broke in my mouth,” he says through his mouthful.

“Er— what’s Raynaud’s?” Aziraphale asks, desperate for a change of subject.

“Circulatory disease,” Crowley says, although he’s struggling with a mouthful of cold popsicle, so it sounds more like sher-cu-luh-shory huh-ease.

“Sorry?” Aziraphale asks.

Crowley forces himself to swallow the bite he took, shudders, then says again, “Circulatory disease. Er— classified as a syndrome, I guess. Or a phenomenon. My blood vessels narrow when I’m cold. Or stressed.”

“So like every day?” Anathema asks.

“Ha-ha,” Crowley says dryly. “It’s mostly my fingers and toes. Sometimes my nose.”

He looks at his hand, then extends it to Aziraphale. “Look. Happening now on the tips.”

The tips of Crowley’s fingers do indeed look affected. Aziraphale nervously takes his hand to look at it, then quickly lets it go. “You can’t possibly be cold, though. Why are you stressed?”

“I’m always stressed,” Crowley says vaguely. “My mum’s out of the country. Wouldn’t you be stressed?”

“I suppose,” Aziraphale says.

“Aziraphale,” Anathema says suddenly, and he looks over at her. “Give me your hand.”

“Sorry?” Aziraphale asks.

“Your hand,” Anathema says, holding her own out in anticipation to take his. “Let me see it.”

He extends his hand and she takes it, looking closely at it. Crowley stands awkwardly in the middle of the exchange, now rapidly racing time and heat for the right to consume the rest of his popsicle. 

“Who does your nails?” Anathema finally asks after a moment of inspection.

“Oh,” Aziraphale says, blushing; he pulls his hand away. “Nobody. I mean, I— I do them myself. Is it really so obvious?”

“I’ve got a keen eye,” Anathema says with a wink. “You ever paint them?”

“Oh, no,” Aziraphale says, blushing harder. “I— no. That’s— oh, that’d be a bit camp, wouldn’t it?”

“Camp is great,” Crowley says simply.

“Anthony used to paint his nails black all the time,” Anathema says. “Dunno why he stopped, to be honest.”

“Honestly? My nail polish expired, and I’ve been too lazy to buy another one,” Crowley says.

They stand in silence for a long moment. They’ve each nearly finished their ice cream, when Crowley says, “If I ever get married, this is where I wanna honeymoon.”

“Oh, that’s so fucking sappy,” Anathema says with a smile. “Here? In Worthing?”

Crowley shrugs. “Just… somewhere around here.”

Aziraphale looks at him oddly. “If?”

“Hm?” Crowley asks through finishing off his popsicle.

“You said if you ever get married, not when,” Aziraphale points out. “You don’t think you’re going to get married?”

Crowley shrugs. “I’m turning thirty in two months.”

“And?”

“And I’ve never been in a serious relationship,” Crowley says, not looking at him. “And after everything that’s happened in the past couple of years, with the AIDS crisis, and everything, and… and I’m not out to my mum yet, so I just dunno if I’m ever gonna get married. I technically can’t even get married, anyways.”

“Keith Haring died back in February, you read about that?” Anathema asks, sensing Aziraphale’s reluctance to comment.

“Yeah,” Crowley says, focusing himself on licking the popsicle stick clean.

Anathema hums. “Mercury’s got it, too.”

“Shut up,” Crowley snaps. 

He hesitates, his cheeks flushed, and then he sniffs and abruptly starts walking away from the two of them. “I’m going to find a trash can.”

Aziraphale opens his mouth to say something, but Crowley’s already too far away. He looks at Anathema, distressed. “I didn’t mean to upset him.”

“You didn’t,” Anathema assures him quietly. “He’s just touchy about it. He’s anxious all the time on a good day. I’m pretty sure he’s paralyzed with fear over the idea of… well, you know. Even though he’s a huge virgin.”

Aziraphale’s eyes widen slightly. “He is?”

Anathema looks at him. “Don’t tell me you thought he wasn’t.”

“I—” Aziraphale stammers. “I mean, he… seriously? He just… well, he just did that to his popsicle.”

“And he’s only ever done it to popsicles,” Anathema says, amused. “Although, one time I got him to deepthroat a breadstick.”

“Oh?”

“Yeah, he’s got, like, no gag reflex.”

“Oh…”

“But don’t tell him I told you that, he’ll get embarrassed,” Anathema says quickly. “Act inconspicuous, he’s coming back over.”

“Oh,” Aziraphale says, flustered, and he looks away, trying to think of anything to do to make himself look casual. 

Crowley returns and hands each of them a wad of napkins. “Here,” he says. “If you get sticky hands on my car, I’ll get sticky hands on your corpse while I bury it.”

“Sounds sexy,” Anathema says, snatching the napkins from him.

“Thank you,” Aziraphale says, taking them.

“Aw, you’re welcome, you’re the sweetest man on the beach,” Crowley says.

“Nice call back, idiot,” Anathema says. “Let’s go.”


Sunday, August 12, 1990

Worthing


“This is a Presbyterian church.”

“I’m aware it’s a Presbyterian church. It’s five minutes ’til, it’s either this or nothing at all.”

“I’ve never been to a Presbyterian church before.”

“Neither have I, let’s go.”

“Don’t they have a lot to do with fish?”

“… What?”

“Presbyterians? Don’t their lot have to do with fish? Or am I misremembering?”

“…That’s pescatarian.”

“Oh.”

“Come on, you git.”


Wednesday, August 15, 1990

The Assumption of Mary

London


Crowley drops into the earliest service available in the morning, which is effectively useless because Aziraphale is never at the early services. Either way, he attends for the holy day, which puts his mind at ease, at least partially.

He meets Aziraphale for lunch at the cafe. It’s busy today, but by a stroke of luck their usual table is free. Jasper spots them before Camille does; he gets her attention by tugging on her sleeve, then nods to the two of them, muttering something to her. She says something very quickly and succinct to him, and then turns back to what she was working on.

A few moments later, Jasper appears at their table with their usual order. Aziraphale offers him a kind smile. “Memorized it, have you, dear boy?”

Jasper blushes furiously. “No, er— no, aha, no, but— er— cocoa, yeah?”

Aziraphale holds his mug up. “Cheers.”

“Yup!” Jasper says, flustered, and he scampers away as quickly as possible. 

Crowley bites into his biscotti; it’s hard as a rock, but he’s learned that dipping it into his cider isn’t nearly as good as dipping it into a good cup of coffee. “He still fancies you.”

“I don’t know what on earth makes you think that,” Aziraphale says, taking a sip of his cocoa.

“Er— did you see the way he just acted?” Crowley asks. “You dropped a pet name on him and his whole face turned red!”

“That doesn’t prove anything.”

“That proves everything.”

“Alright,” Aziraphale says. “Well, why don’t you call Camille over here and test your theory?”

Crowley laughs. “Sorry?”

“She fancies you, clear as day,” Aziraphale insists. “Ask her over here and pepper in a pet name and see how she reacts.”

Crowley shakes his head. “No.”

“Why not?” Aziraphale asks, his tone teasing.

“I will have you know two things,” Crowley says. “Number one— I’m shit at flirting. Number two— I do not flirt with women.”

“Make an exception just this once, and I’ll pay for your food,” Aziraphale offers.

Crowley hesitates. “Really?”

Aziraphale nods. “Really.”

Crowley pretends to think about it. “All right. Deal. Give me a minute.”

He turns his head and manages to catch Camille’s eye. It’s not difficult, considering how often she spares glances in his direction. He nods his head, silently asking her to come over, and she immediately excuses herself from her conversation with a customer and flits over to their table.

“Hi, Anthony,” she says with a smile; looking at her closely, it’s quite obvious how large her front teeth are. 

Crowley ignores it. “I had a question for you, if it’s not too much trouble,” he says, and his tone of voice is incredibly startling, rich and smooth and carefully calculated, his usual anxiety not even daring to drip through. Aziraphale blinks at the sudden change in his demeanor.

Camille nods eagerly. “No trouble at all. What’s up?”

“Your apple cider,” Crowley says; he emphasizes each word and taps his fingers on the rim of the mug, “there absolutely has to be a secret ingredient, what is it?”

“Oh,” Camille says, a slight blush tinging her cheeks. “Well—”

“Is it love?” Crowley asks, grinning up at her, and she practically short circuits. 

“Oh— well—” she stutters, brushing a lock of hair behind her ear. “There’s certainly some that I make with affection in mind, but if you must know, it’s caramel.”

“Caramel!” Crowley exclaims, delighted. “That’s absolutely what it is— it’s sweet. Must take after you, angel.”

Camille’s entire face turns beet red. She laughs, shifting on her feet, an enormous smile on her face. Flustered isn’t a terribly attractive look on her. “Thank you,” she finally manages to bite out. “I— er—”

She seems to be scrambling for something to offer him, but he’s only halfway done with his biscotti and not even a quarter of the way done with his cider. Eventually, she just manages to say, “Tha—thank you. That’s— really sweet. Thank you.”

Crowley takes a sip of his cider. “Thank you.”

“Okay,” Camille says, her entire face still flushed. “Okay— er— e-enjoy.”

She’s rushes away from their table and into the back room in the blink of an eye.

Aziraphale is staring at him. “You liar.”

“Hm?” Crowley asks, sinking back into his normal, jittery self.

“Shit at flirting my arse,” Aziraphale says, smacking his wrist. “She practically dissolved into a puddle!”

“That’s her problem,” Crowley says. “Besides— maybe I’m only charming to ladies. I’ve never made a man dissolve into a puddle.”

Aziraphale looks as though he wants to refute that claim; instead, he takes a long sip of his cocoa.


Friday, August 17, 1990

London


Beelzebub answers the door; it’s almost like she was waiting. She grins wickedly at Crowley, and then less wickedly at Anathema.

“Who’s your friend?” she asks defensively.

“This is Anathema,” Crowley says. “She’s my plus one.”

Beelzebub squints at him. “Hastur said you could have a plus one?”

Crowley bites the inside of his cheek. “Do you not have a plus one?”

Anathema glances warily over at Crowley. “Did you not mention you were gonna bring me?”

“I didn’t see him again,” Crowley says through a tight smile.

“Could’ve told Dagon,” Beelzebub says shortly.

“Look, I’m her ride, and if I have to take her home, I’m not coming back,” Crowley says.

Beelzebub purses her lips, but steps to the side to let them into the flat. It’s small, dimly lit and very cramped; obviously well lived in. It smells of cigarette smoke, which makes Crowley shudder. Crowley and Anathema follow Beelzebub past the kitchenette into a living space that is crowded with people; Hastur and Ligur— who are sitting practically on top of each other— and Dagon. They’re drinking boxed wine. There’s music from a band Crowley vaguely recognizes playing from a source he can’t find.

Beelzebub presses Crowley forward towards the couch with a firm hand on his lower back. “Sit down, pretty boy,” she says with a wide grin. She pushes him down onto the couch next to Dagon and sits down on his other side, boxing him in. 

Anathema stands awkwardly for a moment, then sits down in a chair by herself. Crowley clears his throat awkwardly and reaches over Dagon to hand Ligur his card, before sitting back against the cushion and crossing his legs at his ankles. There are five of them on the couch, and even though Hastur and Ligur are practically on top of each other, it’s incredibly crowded.

“Say, Crawly, did you know the most important Satanic holiday is one’s own birthday?” Hastur asks, while Ligur inspects the card.

“It’s Crowley,” Crowley corrects him. “And yes, I did know that. I got into this stuff at the same time you did.”

“Got right back out of it, though,” Beelzebub says airily. “Bet you’re not even allowed to celebrate your birthday.”

“I’m allowed to celebrate my birthday, I’m Catholic, not a Jehovah’s Witness,” Crowley says defensively. “And I will be happily celebrating my birthday in October.”

Dagon nods her head to the boxed wine. “Crawly— you want a drink?”

Crowley sniffs. “Crowley,” he corrects. “And no, thank you, I’m driving.”

“Full of excuses, this one,” Beelzebub says vaguely. She shifts on the couch and starts toying with a lock of Crowley’s hair; he shrugs her off.

Anathema collects a boxed wine for herself and settles back down on the couch. “You might be better off with a soda,” she says to Crowley. “Can you imagine how abhorred Aziraphale would be if he knew you’d drank boxed wine?”

“Who’s Aziraphale?” Ligur asks.

“My boyfriend,” Crowley says abruptly, his entire face flushing.

Everyone in the room looks at him curiously, including Anathema, who exchanges several looks with him in a matter of seconds.

Crowley squeezes his ankles together. “I’m gay. You knew that, right? I’m gay?” He looks pointedly at Beelzebub. “I’m gay?”

She hums. “I didn’t know that, no,” she says, and she sounds rather disappointed. “You’ve really got yourself a boyfriend, then?”

“Yes,” Crowley says defensively. “He’s great.”

“A bit of a dork, but great,” Anathema agrees earnestly. “I’ve been telling them they need to get together for a long time.”

Crowley gives her a look. “Yup.”

“They’re such a cute couple, it’s honestly astounding,” she adds.

“Yup,” Crowley says forcefully.

“I was telling them they should get together for ages,” Anathema says to Beelzebub, who gives her a low effort smile and slouches into the couch.

“Okay, we get it, thank you,” Crowley says quickly. 

Beelzebub checks her watch. “Nearly fifteen after. Sun’s down. I might be on my way.”

Anathema watches her curiously. “We’ve hardly been here five minutes. Party’s barely started.”

“Oh, we’ve been here for hours,” Dagon says; she twists her leg lazily against the coffee table. “Invited Crawly late ‘cause we knew it’d be awkward.”

“Crowley,” Crowley corrects. “And if it’s awkward because I’m here, I’ll happily leave.”

“Not awkward for us,” Hastur says. “Awkward for you. I can assure you, we’re all enjoying it immensely.”

“It’s your present to me,” Ligur reasons. “Let us make you insufferably uncomfortable for an hour and a half.”

“How could I resist?” Crowley mutters.

“I’ll be headed out, then,” Beelzebub says, standing.

“Bye, Bells,” Hastur and Ligur say practically in unison.

“See you tomorrow,” Dagon says.

Once she’s gone, Crowley scoots to the other side of the couch. They sit in the quiet of the music; Crowley glances around the room for the source, when Ligur suddenly asks, “Still got that tattoo?”

Crowley glances at him. “Which?”

“Which?” Ligur asks, shifting towards him. “You’ve got more than one?”

“You know Satanists aren’t the only ones allowed to do punk things?” Crowley asks flatly.

“The snake one, you still got it?” Hastur presses.

“I’ll have you know, getting rid of tattoos is fucking expensive, and I’m not gonna ditch this little guy, I happen to like snakes quite a lot,” Crowley says. He pulls his pant leg up to reveal a simply done, somewhat faded tattoo of a snake. It’s small, and clearly put together with a lot of effort. 

“What other ones have you got, then?” Ligur asks.

Crowley hesitates. “None of your business.”

“When someone asks what kind of tattoos you have and you say none of your business, it means you have a tramp stamp,” Dagon points out.

“I do not have a tramp stamp,” Crowley assures her. 

“What’s that on your wrist?” Ligur asks, pointing to the small λ Crowley had drawn there a few years back.

“It’s for my mum,” Crowley says.*

*This is a lie. It’s a gay thing, having to do with symbolizing unity under oppression, or so Crowley had read, but that wasn’t the sort of conversation he wanted to have sitting next to his boss.

“Ligur, how old are you turning?” Anathema asks suddenly, sensing that Crowley is desperate for a change in subject.

Ligur blinks, almost as if he hadn’t noticed her. “Thirty.”

“Dirty thirty,” Anathema says out of obligation. Crowley face palms.

“Remind me who you are?” Dagon asks.

“Anathema Device,” Anathema says. “I come into the nursery all the time.”

The three stare at her blankly.

“I’m Anthony’s friend,” she adds. “We play D&D together.”

As soon as she starts her sentence, Crowley sits up like he’s trying to stop her from finishing, but she gets the words out faster than she can protest. Hastur looks at Crowley with wide eyes and a devilish grin. “You play Dungeons and Dragons?”

Crowley sinks back into the couch. “Yeah,” he says, sounding defeated. 

“Nerd,” Dagon says, then takes a sip of her wine.

“Yeah that’s pretty fucking nerdy,” Hastur says. He turns and rummages in the pockets of his jacket, which is hanging over the arm of the couch, and then pulls a cigarette pack out. “Babe, will you grab me a lighter?”

“Yah,” Ligur says, standing up and going searching for the nearest one.

Crowley stiffens. “Do you have to smoke that right now?”

“Problem?” Hastur asks, ignoring him and taking a cigarette out of the box.

“I’ve quit,” Crowley says. “Being in the room is giving me as bad enough headache as it is, do you have to smoke it right here?”

“It does kinda smell like smoke,” Anathema says helpfully.

“They’re menthol,” is all Hastur says as Ligur hands him a lighter before dropping back down on the couch next to him. 

Hastur lights the cigarette and takes a drag. Crowley immediately feels dizzy.

“I did notice you’d stopped taking smoke breaks,” Dagon says. She takes a sip of her wine. “Thought it was just the busy season, though. Why’d you quit?”

“Mum asked me to,” Crowley says hoarsely. 

“Aww,” Hastur says mockingly. He takes another drag. Crowley stares at his cigarette from across the couch like he’s thinking of taking it.

“Anthony, you don’t even like menthol cigarettes,” Anathema reminds him.

“Yeah, I, er,” Crowley says slowly, not taking his eyes off of it; it wouldn’t take much effort to reach out and snatch it from him. “Not a big fan of mint.”

Hastur passes the cigarette to Ligur, who takes a drag. The smoke wafts closer to Crowley, and he feels like he’s going to be sick. 

“Do everything your mum asks?” Hastur teases; Crowley ignores him.

“Anthony,” Anathema says, noticing how he hasn’t looked away from the cigarette. “Do you want a piece of gum?”

Dagon holds her hand up, and Ligur passes her the cigarette. She takes a drag, then turns and blows the smoke directly into Crowley’s face.

“Hey, come on,” Anathema says, annoyed. “That’s just fucking rude.”

“You want a drag?” Dagon asks, holding the cigarette out to him.

“I really shouldn’t,” Crowley says, but his hands are twitching.

Dagon doesn’t lower the cigarette or retract the offer.

“Anthony,” Anathema says warily.

Crowley doesn’t respond to her; he snatches the cigarette out of Dagon’s fingers and takes possibly the longest drag of his life.

“Anthony!” Anathema says again, leaning forward in her seat. He ignores her still, exhaling and coughing and enjoying a brief moment of letting the tension in his body completely dissipate, before handing the cigarette back to Dagon, already curling in on himself from anxiety, coupled with the desperation for another hit.

He watches Dagon take another drag mournfully, and then something hits him in the face and lands in his lap. He picks it up; it’s a pack of gum. 

“Use that to satisfy your oral fixation, and let’s go,” Anathema says sternly.

“Oral fixation?” Ligur asks, amused.

“You’ve been here ten minutes,” Hastur argues.

“Ten minutes too long, in my opinion, because you’re all twats,” Anathema snaps, standing up. “He’s honestly trying to quit and you’re sitting there breathing it in his face.”

Crowley puts a piece of gum in his mouth and stands as well. “They didn’t make me do anything, Anathema.”

“Blowing smoke in your face isn’t going to make you take a drag?” Anathema asks incredulously. “Anthony, let’s just go. You’re going to feel like shit in the morning.”

Crowley doesn’t argue with her. “Happy birthday,” he bids Ligur as he follows her to the door.

“Thanks for the in house entertainment,” Ligur says with a wicked smile.


Saturday, August 18, 1990

London


Anathema is right; Crowley does feel like shit in the morning.

He wakes to the sound of his phone ringing; he peels his head away from his pillow reluctantly and checks his clock. It’s far too early for anyone to be calling him, but he can tell which phone it’s coming from, so he knows who it must be, and she wouldn’t call for no reason. He crawls out of bed, resists the urge to vomit on himself, and stumbles to the phone.

“Hallo?” he says crankily. 

“Oh, Anthony,” Rose says happily. “I’m so sorry, I know it’s early, but the absolute funniest thing just happened to me, and I just had to tell you immediately.”

“Shoot,” Crowley offers meekly.

“So, I’m in Denmark, in Copenhagen, and I’ve been staying in the most quaint little bed and breakfast type place,” Rose explains. “And there’s this man who works at a cafe across the way. And I do like cafes, you know I like cafes, and so I go into this little cafe each morning just for somewhere nice to sit and have my coffee and read my Bible, and he always comes out and sits and talks with me, and do you know what he does today when I tell him I’m leaving on the train this afternoon? Do you know what he does?”

“What does he do?” Crowley asks; he sways vaguely on his feet, and decides it might be a good idea to sit down. 

Rose lets out a breathy little chuckle, and the sound crackles through the phone line. “He proposed to me.”

Crowley blinks. “He what?”

“He proposed to me,” Rose says with a laugh. “Can you imagine?!”

“What did you tell him?” Crowley asks anxiously.

“Anthony, what do you think I told him?” Rose asks incredulously. “I told him no! I’ve had ten conversations with him! Why on Earth would you worry about what my response was?”

“I worry about everything,” Crowley says vaguely.

“I said no, Anthony, I’m not an idiot,” Rose says. “And besides, you know— you know I’d never… I’m loyal to your father, Anthony, you know that.”

Crowley can’t tell if it’s her sentence or the withdrawals that cause him to be suddenly overwhelmed with the need to vomit. Perhaps it’s a mix of both. Either way, he drops the phone and runs to the kitchen sink.

When he returns to the phone, Rose is fretting. “Anthony? Did you drop the phone? Are you okay? What happened?”

“Threw up,” Crowley says shortly. “Sorry. I’m not feeling well.”

“Are you sick?”

“Kind of?”

“What happened?”

“I…” Crowley hesitates. “I was out with friends last night. I had— well, okay, it wasn’t even a whole one, I took one drag—”

“Anthony,” Rose says, in a very disheartened voice.

“It’s the first I’ve had since Lent, mum,” Crowley insists. “And it was only one drag—”

“Anthony, they’re so unhealthy for you,” Rose says in a quiet voice.

“I know that, mum,” Crowley says. “That’s a risk I know I take when I smoke them, I know what I’m doing.”

Rose sighs heavily, a sound that devolves into a cough. Crowley frowns angrily. “Why do you still have that cough? It’s been months.”

“Something going around,” Rose says; it’s a weak excuse and they both know it.

“Is something wrong?” Crowley asks nervously, frustrated. “You have to tell me if something is wrong.”

“Everything is fine, Anthony,” Rose says flatly. “I have to catch my train.”

Neither of them hang up the phone.

She takes a breath. “Don’t let me hear any stories about you spontaneously proposing to women.”

Crowley swallows. “You definitely don’t have to worry about that.”

He hangs up to avoid the repercussions of his statement, and goes to get back in bed.


Sunday, August 19, 1990

London


Newt comes into the nursery timidly, creeping around a couple heatedly arguing over what sort of arrangements they want at their wedding and sliding up to the front desk, where Crowley is perched.

“Hey,” he says, a little surprised to see him. “Get the afternoon off?”

“Not exactly,” Newt says. “I’m here on Witchfinder business.”

“Do tell,” Crowley says, intrigued.

“Okay, so you know how the Sergeant has me cut clippings out of the papers, looking for witchlike phenomena, and shit?”

Crowley grins. “Yeah.”

“Well, there’s been a recent… surplus of phenomena,” Newt admits. “Not necessarily witchlike, but… odd, nonetheless.”

“Oh, yeah?”

“Yeah, I mean,” Newt looks nervously behind him at the arguing couple, then back at Crowley. “You know it’s possible. You know Anathema.”

“Yeah, I know,” Crowley agrees. “Weird shit happens. I try not to think about it. What have you been seeing around?”

Newt hesitates. “You’re from Tadfield, right?”

“Yeah.”

“In Oxfordshire?”

“Is there another?”

“Listen,” Newt says, “have you ever noticed… the weather?”

“The weather?” Crowley asks, tilting his head to the side. “What about the weather?”

“It’s… perfect, isn’t it?” Newt asks. He reaches into his bag and pulls out a dozen or so newspaper clippings and dumps them on the counter, trying to flip them all over so Crowley can read them. “It always has perfect weather for the time of year.”

“That’s not odd.” Crowley says, picking up a clipping. A WHITE CHRISTMAS IN OXFORDSHIRE VILLAGE — AGAIN! Against all odds, Tadfield has three inches of snow! Only town in England!

“Yes, it’s odd!” Newt exclaims. “Anthony, when do you remember normal weather for the time of year? Does that ever happen in London?”

“Tadfield’s small, it’s out of the way,” Crowley reasons. “Not many people. Not much smog.”

“Normal weather for the time of year isn't normal, Anthony,” Newt says. “It’s snowed every Christmas for the past eleven years. When did you last see snow at Christmas anywhere else? And long hot Augusts? Every year? And crisp autumns? The kind of weather you used to dream of as a kid?”

Crowley examines another headline, then pauses to think about it. “I suppose it is a bit odd.”

He sets the clipping back down. “But that’s not supernatural odd, is it? That’s just regular, everyday odd.”

Newt sighs. “Well, whatever type of odd it is, the Sergeant asked me to investigate it.”

“Oh, yeah?” Crowley asks. “Have you ever been down?”

“No,” Newt admits. “I was kind of hoping I might be able to go down to Tadfield with you, next time you were headed that way? Anathema might like to join, too. Sort of try to make it fun, since I’m not entirely certain what I’m supposed to be doing, anyways.”

Crowley sighs. “I have no objections, but I have no idea when I’ll be able to get off work. We’re still winding down from wedding season. I’d like to go down Wednesday, but I don’t think I can—”

“Go.”

Crowley starts, turning around to face Dagon, who’s just emerged from the back room. “What?”

“You wanna take Wednesday off, go,” Dagon says, waving her hand dismissively. “Take the whole rest of the week off. I wasn’t planning on opening anyways.”

Crowley narrows his eyes. “Are you messing with me?”

“No,” Dagon says, exasperated. “I’m dealing with shit. Take Wednesday, and don’t let me see you again until Monday.”

Crowley blinks. “O… kay?”

She disappears into the back room, and Crowley turns to Newt. “Guess I’m taking you to Tadfield, then.”


Wednesday, August 22, 1990

Adam’s Birthday

Tadfield


“What sort of Witchfinder business are you supposed to be doing down here, anyways?” Anathema asks, as she and Newt follow Crowley up the walkway to his house. 

“Uh, dunno really,” Newt says, looking around curiously. “I’ve never actually been sent out on any sort of mission. The job’s mostly clipping newspaper.”

“Sounds enthralling,” Crowley says flatly, unlocking the door and bracing for the smell of cigarettes.

Crowley set Adam’s gift on the table; he’d taken the time to wrap it. Of course, he hadn’t had any actual wrapping paper, so he’d just nicked some brown packaging paper from the nursery and wrapped it in that, but it’s the thought that counts. 

“Gotta pee,” Anathema says bluntly, setting a stack of magazines down on the table next to Crowley’s gift. She disappears down the hall.

“Remind me what these Them are like?” Newt requests while Crowley opens the curtains.

“Huh?” Crowley asks, having been inspecting the garden from afar. “Oh— er, there’s four of them. Wensleydale— big glasses, dark skin, real mature for his age. Brian— he’s always filthy, he’s easy to recognize. Pepper— bright red hair, face full of freckles, very brash. Watch what you say around her. And Adam, he’s the leader, sort of. Clever kid. Gives his parents an awful lot of trouble, but he’s nice. S’his birthday today.”

Newt looks at the gift on the table. “And that’s why you got him this?”

“Uh huh,” Crowley says. “Hang on, I have to go yell at some primrose.”

“What?” Newt asks, confused.

“I’ll be right back,” Crowley promises, slipping out the back door. He makes it all the way over to the primroses and has the first insult halfway out of his mouth, when he hears the faint clacking of Pepper’s bike coming closer.

“Dammit,” he mutters. He points accusingly at the primrose. “I’ll be back for you later, you underperforming little shit,” he says, before dashing back inside.

“That was fast,” Newt comments.

“I didn’t get to start,” Crowley says, grabbing his gift. “Be right back. Again.”

He crosses to the back gate and opens it just as the Them come into view. He waves to them; they react to him excitedly, pedaling closer.

“Mr. Crowley!” Adam exclaims, his bike skidding to a stop just in front of him. “Look!”

He points proudly to the basket of his bike— which used to be Pepper’s bike, but they’ve since traded— where sits a small, spotted, black and white dog. 

Crowley’s eyes go wide. “Is he yours?”

“Yeah!” Adam says proudly. “His name is Dog! Do you want to pet him?”

Crowley blinks. “Your dad actually let you get a dog?”

“Yeah,” Adam says, then hesitates, and says, “Well— no. We found him at the quarry. But he ran right up to me and I named him Dog.”

“He does all types of tricks,” Pepper says with a nod.

“And only for Adam!” Brian adds.

“My dad’ll let me keep him,” Adam says, certainly. “He’s my dog. Isn’t that right, Dog?”

Dog barks excitedly, sitting up in the basket and wagging his tail. 

“Well,” Crowley says, baffled, “I hope he does.” He holds the gift out for him. “Happy birthday, Adam.”

Adam’s face lights up, and he leans forward and takes the present gingerly, before tearing the paper off eagerly. His face falls for a fraction of a second, but he clearly tries not to let Crowley see. “It’s… a book?”

“It’s the basic set for Dungeons and Dragons,” Crowley explains. “S’the most recent version. It’s got a player’s manual, a rulebook, and a set of dice.”

As he talks, Adam’s face lights up again. “Cor!” he says, smiling brightly at Crowley. “Thank you, Mr. Crowley!”

Crowley shrugs, again imbued with that certain happiness that comes from making a child smile. “No problem. Happy birthday.”

Anathema emerges from the garden, stack of magazines in hand. She huffs at Crowley. “Trying to one up me, I see.”

She holds the stack out to Adam. “Happy birthday!”

Adam sets the basic set in the basket carefully with Dog, then takes the magazines from her, blushing slightly. “What are these?”

“Some of my old copies of New Aquarian Digest,” Anathema says proudly. “All kinds of occult things in there, I think you’d like to read about very much.”

Adam blushes a little harder, prompting Pepper to squint at him suspiciously. “Thanks, Ms. Device.”

“Why are you blushing?” Pepper asks sharply.

“I’m not!” Adam cries defensively.

“You are!” Pepper argues.

“I’m not!” Adam insists. “And it’s my birthday, so you’re not allowed to tease!”

Pepper grumbles at this, but reluctantly complies. Adam looks happily back at Anathema. “Thank you for the magazines.”

“Sure thing,” Anathema says with a smile. “Have a happy birthday!”

The Them bike off in a flurry, talking loudly over one another. 

“You tried to one up me,” Anathema says.

“I did not,” Crowley says, walking back through the gate. “I just got here first. You were in the bathroom.”

He stops halfway through the yard, and she pauses just behind him. “What?”

“Oh, nothing,” Crowley assures her. “You go on inside. I need to have a word with my primrose.”


Thursday, August 23, 1990

Tadfield


Newt makes a round around the village on foot, eventually enlisting help from the Them when he manages to get himself lost. They show him the most interesting parts of the village, and listen eagerly when he explains to them his reason for being in town. Anathema takes her own stroll and manages to find a number to call about Jasmine Cottage, simply because she’s intrigued by it. Crowley spends most of the day sleeping.

“They’re playing a witch finding game, now,” Newt tells Anathema when he comes back inside, overstimulated by the heat and being dragged to and fro by a group of children who all talk rather loudly. 

“Oh, yeah?” Anathema asks. 

“Spanish Inquisition,” Newt says, sitting down at the table. “Er— they were calling it British Inquisition, though. Or something like that. Took the girl’s sister down to the pond to dunk her in the water.”

Anathema hums. “Find anything witchy?”

“Besides you? Nothing,” Newt sighs. “Those kids’ll have better luck finding something than I will. I’m not even sure what I’m supposed to be looking for.”

Anathema takes Newt to look at Jasmine Cottage. They both spend a long few moments in the garden admiring it.

“It is nice,” Newt says. “Why do we care?”

Anathema shrugs. “Just thinking.”

Adam rides past the two of them as they’re walking back. His hair is damp. He slows his bike and rides along next to them. “Hallo.”

“Hey, Adam,” Anathema says.

Adam looks pointedly at Newt. “You know Ms. Device?” 

“Newt is my boyfriend,” Anathema says. A sour expression crosses Adam’s face, but he shakes it off.

“Hi, Adam,” Newt says. He points to his hair. “Go for a dip, yourself?”

“Oh, yeah,” Adam says. “It’s hot out, you know?”

“I do,” Newt says; he had made the mistake of attempting to wear his witch finder uniform. He won’t make the same mistake tomorrow.

“Come in for a lemonade, Adam?” Anathema offers.

“Where’s Mr. Crowley?” Adam asks, when he notices he’s not in the garden.

“He’s asleep,” Newt tells him.

“Oh.” Adam checks the clock. “It’s nearly two.”

“Anthony likes to sleep,” Anathema reasons. “I suspect he would do little else if he were left to it.”

“Why?” Adam asks.

Anathema shrugs, handing him his lemonade. Newt sits idly by while Adam asks questions and Anathema slowly descends into a rant about anything Adam is willing to listen to. Newt has heard her concerns many times before, and agrees with most of what she has to say. He finds Adam’s enthralled expression quite relatable.

The only time he interrupts her is to agree with her views on nuclear power: “I've been to a nuclear power station. It was boring. There was no green smoke and bubbling stuff in tubes. Shouldn’t be allowed, not having proper bubbling stuff when people have come all the way to see it, and having just a lot of men standing around not even wearing space suits.”

“They do all the bubbling after visitors have gone home,” says Anathema grimly.

“Huh,” says Adam.

“They should be done away with this minute.”

“Serves them right for not bubbling!”

Adam scampers off after finishing him lemonade, promising Anathema to read the magazines she gifted him that evening. 

Newt takes a sip of his own lemonade, and grimaces when the ice touches his lip. He stands from his chair. “Wonder if he has any straws.”

“He’s a bit odd,” Anathema says vaguely. She looks over her shoulder at Newt. “Adam, I mean. Don’t you think?”

Newt shrugs. “He seems perfectly nice to me. I think he just fancies you a bit, is all.”

“Oh, stop it, you,” Anathema teases.


Friday, August 24, 1990

Tadfield


Crowley takes less to sleeping and more to working in the garden, pleased to have time off work at such a pleasant time of year to be doing so. Anathema takes Newt out around the village, promising to help him look around for anything suspiciously supernatural, leaving him alone at the house. Crowley keeps himself busy most of the morning, seeping into the afternoon, until he finally slips inside to get a glass of water.

Newt had left the radio on. On the news, a spokesman sounds close to hysteria. “… danger to employees or the public,” he was saying.

“And precisely how much nuclear material has escaped?” asks the interviewer. Crowley turns and listens attentively, his hand still holding the tap.

There’s a pause. “We wouldn’t say escaped,” says the spokesman. “Not escaped. Temporarily mislaid.”

“You mean it is still on the premises?”

“We certainly cannot see how it could have been removed from them.”

“Surely you have considered terrorist activity?”

Crowley frowns, filling his glass and shutting the tap off. He leans against the counter and takes a sip, listening. 

There’s another pause. Then the spokesman says, in the quiet tones of someone who has had enough and is going to quit after this and raise chickens somewhere, “Yes, I suppose we must. All we need to do is find some terrorists who are capable of taking an entire nuclear reactor out of its can while it’s running and without anyone noticing. It weighs about a thousand tons and is forty feet high. So they’ll be quite strong terrorists. Perhaps you’d like to ring them up, sir, and ask them questions in that supercilious, accusatory way of yours.”

Crowley raises his eyebrows, amused, and also baffled at the subject matter.

“But you said the power station is still producing electricity!” gasps the interviewer. 

“It is.”

Crowley manages to raise his eyebrows higher.

“How can it still be doing that if it hasn’t got any reactors?”

Crowley could see the spokesman's mad grin, even on the radio. “We don't know,” he says breathlessly. “We were hoping you clever buggers at the BBC would have an idea.”

Crowley laughs, amused. He downs the rest of his water and dries the cup out. What an odd sort of prank to pull, he thinks to himself, as he heads back out into the garden.


Saturday, August 25, 1990

Tadfield


Saturday is a quiet sort of day. Not the kind of day where anything eventful happens.

The sunrise produces odd colors in the sky, but other than that, the day is off to a very good start. Crowley, Newt and Anathema all wake around the same time, have their coffee, and listen to the increasingly bizarre stories being told on the radio.

“S’a prank,” Crowley says. “It’s got to be, you should’ve heard what they were going on about yesterday.”

“Right,” Newt says after finishing his coffee. “I’m going to have one more stroll around, and if I don’t spot anything odd, I’ll make something up.”

“Have fun, hon,” Anathema says lazily.

Newt goes for his stroll around the village, and doesn’t see anything odd at all. He’s on his way back, walking through a fairly empty area, thinking about a report to Shadwell he could make up, when the flying saucer lands.

Newt stops dead in his tracks. It looks like every cartoon of a flying saucer he had ever seen. He rubs his eyes, wondering if he might be hallucinating. He’s never hallucinated before. But when he rubs his eyes and looks back, it’s still there, cartoony but very much real.

As he stares, a door in the saucer slides aside with a satisfying whoosh, revealing a gleaming walkway that begins extending automatically down to the ground. Brilliant blue light shines out, outlining three alien shapes. They walk down the ramp. At least, two of them walk. The one that looks like a pepper pot just skids down it, and falls over at the bottom.

The other two ignore its frantic beeping and walk over to Newt quite slowly. The tallest one, a  yellow toad dressed in kitchen foil, steps closest to Newt and holds out its hand. Newt reaches forward and shakes it awkwardly, a bit frightened.

“Morning, sir or madam or neuter,” the thing says. “This your planet, is it?”

The other alien, stubby and green, wanders off. Out of the corner of his eye, Newt sees it kick a tree, and then run a leaf through some complicated gadget on its belt. It doesn’t look very pleased.

He looks back to the thing standing before him. “Well, yes. I suppose so.”

The toad stares thoughtfully at the skyline. “Had it long, have we, sir?”

“Er. Not personally. I mean, as a species, about half a million years. I think?”

The alien exchanges glances with its colleague. “Been letting the old acid rain build up, haven't we, sir?” it asks. “Been letting ourselves go a bit with the old hydrocarbons, perhaps?”

Newt blinks. “I’m sorry?”

“Could you tell me your planet’s albedo, sir?” asks the toad, still staring levelly at the horizon as though it was doing something interesting.

“Er. No?”

“Well, I’m sorry to have to tell you, sir, that your polar ice caps are below regulation size for a planet of this category, sir.”

“Oh, dear,” says Newt. He wonders who he could tell about this, and realizes that there’s absolutely no one who would believe him.

The toad bends closer. It seems to be worried about something, insofar as Newt is any judge of the expressions of an alien race he’s never encountered before.

“We’ll overlook it on this occasion, sir.”

Newt gabbles. “Oh. Er. I’ll see to it— well, when I say I, I mean—”

“The fact is, sir, that we have been asked to give you a message.”

“Oh?”

“Message runs: we give you a message of universal peace and cosmic harmony and suchlike. Message ends.”

“Oh.” Newt turns this over in his mind. “Oh. That’s very kind.”

“Have you got any idea why we have been asked to bring you this message, sir?” asks the toad.

Newt brightens. “Well, er, I suppose,” he flails, “what with Mankind’s, er, harnessing of the atom, and—”

“Neither have we, sir,” the toad says dismissively. “One of them phenomena, I expect. Well, we’d better be going.” 

It shakes its head vaguely, turns around and waddles back to the saucer without another word.

“Thank you!” Newt calls after it.

The small alien walks past him. “Co2 level up 0.5 percent,” it rasps, giving him a meaningful look. “You do know you could find yourself charged with being a dominant species while under the influence of impulse-driven consumerism, don’t you?”

The two of them right the third alien, drag it back up the ramp, and shut the door. A moment later, the saucer flies off again, leaving Newt by himself. He walks back in a bit of a hurry, no longer feeling the need to make up a story for Shadwell.

He scurries inside, and shuts the door behind him, then locks it for good measure before slipping into the living room. Crowley and Anathema are sat on the couch, the radio moved to the coffee table, where they’re both listening to it intently.

Anathema looks when he walks in, and sits up fully when she takes him in. “Are you okay, hon? You look like you saw a ghost.”

Newt swallows. “I wouldn’t say a ghost.”

“May I guess an alien?” Crowley asks; Anathema whacks him on the leg.

Newt’s eyes go wide. “How did you know?”

Crowley and Anathema both look at him. “Was on the news,” Crowley says in a quiet voice.

“You’re serious?” Anathema asks Newt. “You saw a real, actual alien?”

“I saw three, actually,” Newt says meekly.

They sit him down on the couch and have him retell the entire encounter twice, before he gets overwhelmed and goes to sit by himself. Anathema stands and goes to make him some tea. Crowley stays seated on the couch, listening to the radio. Outside, it’s beginning to get rather windy. 

The radio is talking about South American rainforests.

New ones.

It begins to hail. 

That catches Crowley’s attention. He frowns and stands up, walking over to the door. “What on Earth?”

“What?” Anathema asks from the kitchen.

“It’s hailing,” Crowley says, peering outside. “It’s August!”

“What!” Anathema exclaims, apparently looking out the window to see for herself. “How odd…”

Crowley mulls her statement over in his head for a few moments. “Supernatural odd? Or regular, everyday odd?”

“What was that?” Anathema asks.

Crowley shakes his head, walking back over to the couch. “Nothing.”

Anathema finishes with Newt’s tea and brings it to him. Crowley sighs and gives up on thinking about odd things and decides a nap is in order.

When Crowley comes back out into the living room, Anathema and Newt have returned to the couch. Newt is looking curiously towards the windows. It’s no longer hailing, but there are dark clouds gathered in the sky, and it looks ready to downpour at any moment.

“You might’ve been on the money with the whole odd weather thing,” Crowley says casually.

“There’s a red sky,” Newt says vaguely. He’s feeling slightly manic. “At half past four in the afternoon. In August. What does that mean? In terms of delighted nautical operatives, would you say? I mean, if it takes a red sky at night to delight a sailor, what does it take to amuse the man who operates the computers on a supertanker? Or is it shepherds who are delighted at night? I can never remember.”

Crowley shrugs. He goes out into the garden to check on it; all is well, so he goes around to the front of the house to check there, too. As he rounds the corner, he catches the eye of Mr. Tyler, who’s walking his dog, and groans. He tries to look busy as he approaches, but it’s quite in vain as he walks up to the gate, raps on it, and begins talking.

“Afternoon, Anthony,” he says, and Crowley sighs quietly to himself and walks over to the gate.

“Hi, Mr. Tyler,” he says wearily. “Odd weather, yeah?”

“Oh, I suppose,” Mr. Tyler says, glancing up at the pinkish sky. “I hadn’t taken much notice to it. You will never believe what I just saw in town!”

“What?” Crowley asks, his voice flat.

“A gang of hooligans riding through the village on motorcycles!” Mr. Tyler exclaims, sounding rather scandalized and quite outraged. “Four of them! Maybe more…” He looks around suspiciously.

“Motorcycles, huh?” Crowley asks; he’d always hoped to come across to people (mostly attractive men) as the kind of man who could drive a motorcycle, if he so desired, when in fact that was very much not the case.

While Crowley had let his mind slip into a bit of a daydream about motorcycles and handsome men, Mr. Tyler was continuing to complain. Or, at least, he was, until his attention is distracted by the sound of something going clackclackclack.  

Four figures on bicycles shoot past them, closely followed by the scampering figure of a small dog. 

“You! Stop!” shouts Mr. Tyler.

“Oh, they haven’t done anything,” Crowley insists, annoyed, even as the Them brake to a halt and look at them.

“I knew it was you, Adam Young,” Mr. Tyler says, ignoring him. “And your little, hmph, cabal. What, might I inquire, are you children doing out at this time of night? Do your fathers know you’re out?”

“I don’t have a father,” Pepper says indignantly.

Adam turns to look at Mr. Tyler; he appears rather exhausted. “I can’t see how you can say it’s late,” he says, “seems to me— seems to me, that if the sun’s still out then it’s not late.”

“He has a point,” Crowley reasons.

“It’s past your bedtime, anyway,” Mr. Tyler informs them, “and don’t stick out your tongue at me, young lady,” this is to Pepper, “or I will be writing a letter to your mother informing her of the lamentable and unladylike state of her offspring's manners.”

“Well excuse us,” says Adam, aggrieved. “Pepper was just looking at you. I didn’t know there was any law against looking .”

There was a commotion on the grass. Shutzi was being menaced by Dog.

“Master Young,” orders Mr. Tyler, “please get your— your mutt away from my Shutzi.” 

Adam looks astounded. “Dog’s not a mutt. Dog’s a remarkable dog. He’s clever. Dog, you get off Mr. Tyler’s horrible poodle.”

Dog ignores him.

“Dog,” says Adam, ominously. His dog slinks back to his master’s bicycle.

“Well behaved,” Crowley comments; Adam smiles slightly at him.

“I don’t believe you have answered my question,” Mr. Tyler says sharply. “Where are you four off to?”

“To the air base,” says Brian.

“If that’s alright with you,” says Adam, with bitter and scathing sarcasm. “I mean, we wouldn’t want to go there if it wasn’t alright with you.”

Crowley raises his eyebrows; Mr. Tyler is far less amused. “You cheeky little monkey,” he says. “When I see your father, Adam Young, I will inform him in no uncertain terms that—”

But the Them are already pedaling off down the road, in the direction of Lower Tadfield Air Base. He turns to Crowley, affronted. “The nerve of those children! Absolutely no respect for their elders!”

Crowley shrugs. “They respect me quite a lot. Seems to me they just don’t fucking like you.”

He goes back inside.


Sunday, August 26, 1990

The First Day of the Rest of their Lives

Soho, London


Crowley drives them back to London after he gets back from church.

Newt has an increasingly difficult time piecing together the details of the alien encounter, so he finally scraps the story altogether and settles on telling himself he must have been seeing things. He doesn’t normally drink coffee. That must have been it.

Crowley drops them off at their flat and then goes to the bookshop. Aziraphale is where he usually is behind the counter; he’s reading Live and Let Die . Crowley comments on the book as soon as he sees it.

“Oh, yes,” Aziraphale says, smiling at him. “I’m always taking donations, you know, and someone dropped a stack off yesterday and I thought I’d give this one a reread before I put a price tag on it. Had me thinking of you.”

Crowley blushes slightly. “Enjoying it?”

“Quite a bit,” Aziraphale says. “How was Tadfield? Quiet here without you.”

“It was fine,” Crowley says vaguely. “The weather was a bit odd.”

“Rained here,” Aziraphale says; he tucks a bookmark between open pages and sets the book on the counter. “Heard the oddest stories on the news.”

“Me, too,” Crowley says.

They both ponder this briefly; neither of them can seem to remember what those odd stories were.

“Anyway,” Aziraphale says with a shrug.

“Yeah, anyways,” Crowley agrees. “Might I tempt you to a spot of lunch?”

Aziraphale pretends to think about it. “Temptation accomplished.”


Friday, August 31, 1990

London


Crowley gets let out of work early, much to his surprise. He changes, waters his plants and threatens a few slackers. He refills Vesper’s water, then checks his watch. “It’s only five,” he says, then crouches down next to her tank; his knees crackle loudly, but he tries to ignore them. “Do you wanna watch Golden Girls with me?”

She doesn’t answer, just continues drinking. She’s quite adorable, frankly, and Crowley will never admit to cooing over her, even though that’s what he does. He stands back up, and he’s in the process of getting a tape out of the drawer, when his phone rings.

“Hallo?” he says when he answers, hoping very much that it’s Rose.

It’s not. “How do you feel about pizza?” Anathema asks.

“I have a generally positive opinion of it,” Crowley says suspiciously. 

“How do you feel about pizza and shitty wine?”

“I have an even more positive opinion of it,” Crowley says. “Why do you ask?”

“Because Newt and I want friends over, and we only have two friends,” Anathema says. “So go pick up Aziraphale and let’s all get moderately to severely tipsy.”

Crowley hesitates. “I have work in the morning.”

“So only get moderately tipsy.”

Crowley makes a doubtful noise.

“Did you have better plans?” Anathema asks. “Honestly?”

“Yes, I had a date planned with Vesper, thank you very much,” Crowley says. “But I guess I’ll come. I just have to call Aziraphale—”

“Already did,” Anathema says. “Hurry over, loverboy.”

It takes until Anathema is leaning towards the severely tipsy side of the scale before she gets to making any sort of ludicrous suggestions. “We should play a game,” she declares loudly.

Crowley, with a mouthful of pizza that has mostly gone tepid since they spend so much time talking, narrows his eyes. “What kind of game?”

“Never have I ever,” Anathema says firmly.

“No,” Crowley says immediately.

“What?!” Anathema exclaims, sitting up slightly in her chair. “Why not?”

“Because I’m not a sixteen year old girl,” Crowley says flatly. “And I’ve already had enough to drink. I still have work in the morning.”

“So we’ll play with our fingers,” she says, then recognizes the innuendo and wiggles her eyebrows. Newt laughs loudly, and Aziraphale tries and fails to be more discreet about snickering.

“Aziraphale,” Anathema says. “Never have I ever?”

“Never have you ever what?” Aziraphale asks, indicating that he is, in fact, moderately tipsy.

“No, what are your thoughts,” Anathema says slowly, trying to articulate, “on never have I ever?”

“Oh,” Aziraphale says. “I’ve never played it.”

“The man’s never played it,” Anathema says to Crowley. “We’re playing. Everybody put a hand up.”

Newt and Aziraphale both do so; Crowley reluctantly complies after a moment of hesitation. 

“Would you mind explaining the rules?” Aziraphale asks.

“You go around saying things you’ve never done before,” Crowley says, “and if anybody else has ever done that thing, they put a finger down.”

“Last one with any fingers up wins,” Anathema says. “They’re boring, but they win. Who’s first? Well, alright, if you insist— never have I ever had my luggage lost by an airline.”

“I’ve never even been on a plane,” Crowley mutters.

Newt puts a finger down. “Happened to me when I was sixteen. Shitty day.”

“Okay my turn,” Crowley says. “Never have I ever dated someone in secondary school.”

Nobody puts a finger down.

“Sad lot we are,” Anathema says, taking a sip of her wine. “Your turn, Aziraphale.”

“Oh,” Aziraphale says; he thinks for a moment. “Er— never have I ever watched the Sound of Music in its entirety.”

Newt puts another finger down; he’s the only one.

“You’re killing it, babe,” Anathema says.

“I hate the Sound of Music,” Crowley says bitterly.

“I despise the Sound of Music,” Aziraphale agrees.

“Made for each other,” Anathema says flatly. “Your turn, babe.”

Newt hums thoughtfully. “Never have I ever been drunk when I shouldn’t have been.”

Crowley and Anathema both put down a finger. “Predictable,” Newt says. 

“S’why I got expelled,” Crowley says lazily.

“Oh!” Anathema says, delighted. “Never have I ever been expelled.”

“Okay,” Crowley says. “That’s not—”

“Put a finger down.”

“You didn’t—”

“Put a finger dooooown.”

Crowley frowns at her, but puts a finger down nonetheless. He immediately enacts revenge. “Never have I ever slept with someone an hour after meeting them— both of you put your fingers down.”

“Oh, dear,” Aziraphale says quietly.

Anathema puts a finger down with a smug grin; Newt puts one of his down blushing. Before Aziraphale can think of a prompt, Anathema says, “Never have I ever hit someone with my car.”

Crowley sits up, immediately defensive. “Never have I ever hit someone’s car with my bike!”

“Put a finger down!”

You put a finger down!”

“Why don’t you both put a finger down?” Newt suggests.

They both grumble and comply. Again, before Aziraphale can get his prompt out, Anathema says, “Never have I ever had a wet dream about Freddie Mercury.”

“You weren’t supposed to tell anyone about that!” Crowley shouts, sitting bolt upright in his chair, blushing furiously. 

Newt laughs loudly, mirroring Anathema, who dissolves into a fit of giggles. Aziraphale puts his free hand over his mouth to hide his smile, clearly trying not to look amused.

Crowley shoves Anathema’s shoulder lightly. “That was a secret!”

“You told me it, therefore it is fair game!” Anathema says between giggles.

“To be fair,” Newt says, trying to keep himself from dissolving into another fit, “that was extremely specific.”

“Fine,” Anathema says, rolling her eyes. “Never have I ever had a sex dream. That’s broad enough.”

Crowley grumpily puts down a finger; Aziraphale discreetly does so as well. Anathema is the only one who notices; she wiggles her eyebrows at him, and he sinks down into his chair, blushing.

“Your turn,” Anathema says, taking mercy on him.

“My turn, actually,” Newt says, sitting up in his chair. “Never have I ever forgotten there are two other people here who also want to play the game— both of you put a finger down.”

“Good one,” Crowley says flatly, lowering a finger. He’s down to his last one.

Anathema lowers one of her fingers as well. “Your turn, Aziraphale.”

“Oh,” he says, still slightly flushed. “Er— never have I ever been kicked out of an establishment?”

Anathema puts a finger down; as does Newt, leaving all three of them with one finger left. 

“My turn!” Anathema says happily. “Never have I ever snogged a stranger at a Queen concert.”

“Okay,” Crowley says, lowering his last finger. “You know what? Fuck you, first of all—”

“I love you!” Anathema laughs.

“—and second of all, I went on a date with someone to that concert, and that is who I snogged—”

“And you said you found him annoying so you ditched him, and then you snogged someone else,” Newt says.

“Oh, never have I ever made out with two people in one night,” Anathema says cheerfully.

“Don’t bother, he already lost,” Newt says with a smug grin.

“Fuck you,” Crowley says again to Anathema, although there’s slight amusement in his voice.

Chapter Text

Saturday, September 1, 1990

London


“Hey,” Crowley says, slipping into the back room. “You wanted to see me?”

“Yeah,” Dagon says from the desk. She reaches into the drawer and pulls out a clip on name tag; she drops it without paying much attention. “Here.”

Crowley frowns. “I already have a name tag.”

“Well, then, come give it a closer look!” Dagon snaps, and it’s obvious she’s trying not to tack the word dumbass onto the end of her sentence. 

Crowley edges closer to the desk and picks the name tag up; it’s almost exactly the same as his current one, spelling out Anthony Crowley in bold letters, but it’s hard to miss the fact that it says manager at the top. 

Crowley brightens exponentially. He looks down at Dagon. “Are you—?”

“I’m moving on to different things,” Dagon says flatly. “Consider this my two weeks notice. I’ll draw up my last schedule, but after the fourteenth, you’re on your own with that.”

Crowley glances down at the name tag again, then back at Dagon. “Fancy I’ll finally have decent, regular hours, then.”

Dagon glares at him. “I give you shitty hours because you get on my nerves.”

“You get on mine,” Crowley returns politely, already on his way to returning to the front counter.


Sunday, September 2, 1990

London


Camille appears to be staring off into space when Crowley slips into the cafe after work; she turns her head towards the door when she hears the bell ring, sees that it’s Crowley, and positively lights up. She tries to calm it quickly, though, forcing the smile off her face and asking, “An apple cider and a biscotti, yes?”

“Yes,” Crowley agrees; sliding into his usual spot. There are enough people in the cafe to be generating a quiet buzz of conversation, but it’s certainly no book club meeting. 

Camille brings his usual out to him rather quickly. “Dining alone tonight?” she asks politely, setting the mug and the pastry down.

Crowley frowns up at her. “I guess.”

“Understandable, I dine alone most nights,” she says, laughing lightly. “Er, cool,” she adds awkwardly, then abruptly turns and starts heading back to the counter.

Crowley picks his biscotti up, and suddenly Camille is standing back next to the table. “Is he single?”

“Huh?” Crowley asks, slightly startled by her reappearance. 

“Aziraphale,” she says. “Is he single?”

“Er— yeah?”

“Oh,” she says. “Okay.”

She turns away again. Crowley watches her go for a moment, and then turns back to his biscotti.

She makes another reappearance. “Are you single?”

“Wh—” Crowley stutters, having just been about to bite into his pastry. “Er— yeah?”

“Oh,” she says again. “Okay.”

She turns away again. Crowley watches her until she returns to standing behind the counter before he dares to look away. She doesn’t bother him again.


Friday, September 7, 1990

Ninth Session

London


Crowley hosts, and gets the opportunity to brag about being promoted to manager. 

“Aw,” Anathema says. “That is such a mundane, thirty-year-old thing to get excited about.”

Crowley frowns at her. “I’m not thirty.”

“Yet,” Newt says, flipping through his notebook.

“Yeah you’ve got like a month, dude,” Anathema reminds him.

“I— I know,” Crowley says. “I’m aware that I am aging.”

“How old are you?” Aziraphale asks Anathema.

“Twenty-four,” she tells him.

“I’m twenty-seven in two weeks,” Newt offers.

“Oh,” he says. “Huh. I thought— am I the oldest one here?”

“Yes,” Newt says, still looking through his notebook.

“Stole that title from Anthony,” Anathema says.

“How do you two even know each other?” Aziraphale asks. “If you don’t mind my asking. That’s just— a bit of a gap. I can’t imagine you went to school together.”

“He hit—”

“She,” Crowley says pointedly, “hit my car with her bike.”

“He hit me with his car,” Anathema stage whispers to him.

Crowley is about to argue, but Newt sets his notebook down on the table rather loudly, sensing the impending argument that he’s already heard a thousand times. “Shall we start?”


Saturday, September 8, 1990

London


Crowley finds himself back in the cafe again, this time at an even quieter hour than before. He slides into his usual spot, savoring the quiet atmosphere. It doesn’t last long, unfortunately, because Camille appears next to the table almost instantly, startling him.

“Apple cider and a biscotti?” she asks, and Crowley nods nervously. “Okay. I’ll bring it out. And then I have to ask you something.”

“Okay?” Crowley says, even though she’s already on her way back to the counter. 

She returns with his apple cider and biscotti, sets them down in front of him, and then takes a seat across from him. He feels vaguely as though he’s about to receive a lecture. 

“I have a small proposition for you,” she says, her voice dripping with anxiety.

“Okay,” Crowley says, her nerves setting his nerves off. “What is it?”

She opens her mouth, then seems to suddenly realize she doesn’t know how to phrase what she wants to ask for. She sits in silence for several moments, before she finally asks, “How do you feel about double dates?”

“Double dates?” Crowley repeats, and she nods. “Er— they’re fine? Depends who’s attending, honestly. Why?”

“Well,” she says; she looks out the window, then looks back at him. “I had this— idea, sort of.”

She fails to elaborate, so Crowley prompts her. “Go on?”

“Oh,” she says, flushing. “Er, well— you see, Jasper really sort of… fancies Aziraphale.”

Crowley resists the urge to say I knew it. Instead, he nods. She swallows nervously and continues. “And whenever— er, whenever he comes in, I try to encourage him to, er, ask him on a date, but he never does. So I was thinking— I was thinking what if I asked you on a date—”

As she says this, she blushes furiously all the way down to her neck. It’s horribly unflattering.

“—and then we turned it into a double date, so he could— because I mean— I just don’t think that— look, I’m trying to do him a favor, because he’s, like, one of my best friends, and he really likes him a lot, and I think it might be fun, and you know Aziraphale, and I know Jasper and I know he’d be flustered if they went by themselves so I figure if you and I were also there it would help smooth the conversation out so I figured it wouldn’t hurt to ask since you’re a regular and we have mutual friends and I was also thinking that—”

“You’re rambling,” Crowley cuts in, unable to stand listening to her for another moment. 

“Oh,” she says, somehow blushing harder. “Sorry. But, er, yeah. That’s my, er. Proposition.”

“It’s an interesting proposition,” Crowley says vaguely. “A couple of issues I’m seeing, though— for one, I’m gay.”

“Oh,” she says, sounding immensely disappointed. “Well, you— you don’t actually have to go on a real date with me. Or even like me. Like at all. It’s just— just, to, like. Just because I think— er. I just want them to go on a date. And double dates with friends are usually a lot less nerve wracking.”

“Sure,” Crowley says. “Although I hate to point this out, since it sort of derails your entire plan, but Aziraphale isn’t gay.”

Camille goes completely pale; it’s a stark contrast from how red her face was only seconds before. “He’s not?”

“No,” Crowley says. “At least, I’m pretty sure he’s not.”

“Oh,” she says in a quiet voice, the blush creeping back onto her cheeks. “Oh, that’s— oh dear. I’m sorry. How presumptuous of me.”

“It’s fine,” Crowley says. “Listen, I— I could ask him if he’d like to go to dinner or something, all four of us, but if I frame it as a double date, odds are he’s going to say no.”

“Of course,” Camille says. “You really don’t have to. I didn’t know he was straight. Or that you were gay. I’m sorry.”

“It’s fine,” Crowley says again. “And I— look. He… might not be straight. I don’t know. But he says he is. And it’s really none of my business unless he wants to talk about it. I can pitch the idea. I’ll let you know.”

“Oh,” she says, brightening a bit. “Really?”

“Sure,” Crowley says, already sensing that he’s going to regret committing to spending even more time around her. “Jasper seems nice.”

“Oh, he is,” Camille says with a smile. “He’s a sweetheart.”

“I’m sure,” Crowley says; he takes a sip of his apple cider. Camille doesn’t leave. He clears his throat. “So, I’ll talk to him about it.”

“You’re lovely,” she says giddily. “Thank you so much. I know it would mean a lot to him.”

“Uh-huh,” Crowley says. He takes another sip of his cider. Camille still doesn’t leave. “Was that all?”

“Oh, yes,” she says, blushing and standing from the chair. “Thank you, really, it— you’re so sweet. You really are.”

“Thanks,” Crowley says flatly; she finally leaves him alone, and he takes a long sip of his apple cider, thankful for the return to silence.


Sunday, September 9, 1990

London


“Funny, this morning in church,” Rose says. “The priest would say every fifth word or so incredibly loud, like he was trying to keep people on their toes to keep them paying attention.”

“That’s funny,” Crowley says with a slight smile. “Is he better or worse than New Guy?”*

*Referring to a young preacher at their church in Tadfield who was incredibly entertaining for Crowley and his mum to attend services with, as they often made fun of him.

“Oh, no, New Guy is much funnier,” Rose says. “Have you been down? Been to a service with him since I’ve been gone?”

“Not since before you left,” Crowley admits. “Er— he hasn’t been preaching when I’ve gone by, at least.”

“I wonder if he’ll have gotten better since I’ve been away,” she muses. “What’s the priest at your London church like?”

Homophobic, Crowley wants to say, but he bites his tongue. “He’s fine.”

Rose waits for a moment. “Just fine?”

“Yeah, just fine,” Crowley says. “Nothing remarkable.”

“Huh,” Rose says. “You like Tadfield better?”

“Much better,” Crowley admits. “But I can’t make the trip every weekend. Besides, I’m… I have a friend who attends here, so it’s always nice to get to see him.”

“That is nice,” Rose says passively. She seems far less enthused by his statement once she realizes he’s talking about a man. “Any nice ladies your age?”

Crowley sighs. “Met a woman named Uriel through my friend. She’s married, two kids. We went to brunch for her husbands birthday a couple weeks ago.”

“Oh, that’s nice,” Rose says warmly. “You’re making friends, then?”

Crowley wishes she wouldn’t say it like that; he’s twenty-nine and has been living on his own for quite some time. He doesn’t feel like picking an argument, though. “Yeah, I guess.”

“That’s good,” she says. “Her kids are nice?”

Crowley can tell this is heading in the direction of hinting— or outright stating— that he should be getting on with having kids himself, so he aborts the conversation. “I need to be getting to work.”

“Oh,” Rose says. “Well, alright. Have a good day, hon.”

“You, too,” Crowley says earnestly. “Have fun on your tour— trip— thingy.”

Rose laughs. “Thank you. Next time I call should be from Scotland.”

Crowley sits bolt upright. “Really?”

“Yes, I’m in Scotland for a bit, Wales, too,” Rose says. “I’m back in London October sixth.”

“October sixth,” Crowley repeats, overjoyed by how close that seems. “October sixth— okay— okay, cool, I’ll be there to pick you up. When does your flight land?”

“I don’t know, yet, Anthony I’d have to check,” Rose says, amused. “You had work?”

“Oh, right,” Crowley says. “Okay, cool. Cool. Have fun on your tour— have a safe flight to Scotland! I love you!”

“I love you, too,” she says, and hangs up, leaving Crowley smiling happily to himself.


Friday, September 14, 1990

Soho, London


“Hey,” Crowley says, setting his wine glass down on the table. “Concept. Er— proposition.”

“Oh?” Aziraphale asks, intrigued. 

“Okay, so, I was talking to Camille,” Crowley starts; he’s been thinking about this for days and he’s still not sure how he wants to phrase it. “First of all, I was right and I told you so, Jasper fancies you.”

“Oh,” Aziraphale says, blushing hard. “She— she said that?”

“Yeah,” Crowley says, and he manages to be smug and jealous at the same time. “Anyways, so you know how Newt’s birthday is tomorrow?”

“Yes,” Aziraphale says, startled by the somewhat abrupt change in topic. “He wants to go to that quiet little club, right?”

“Yeah,” Crowley says. “And he’s been talking for weeks saying he wanted to do something sort of daring for his birthday, but you know Newt, his definition of daring is quite tame.”

“Sure,” Aziraphale says with a slight smile. 

“Right, well,” Crowley says awkwardly. “I asked him if he might be interested in hanging out with a couple of people he’s never met when we go out for his birthday, if that was daring enough for him, and he said it sounded pretty daring to him, so I should invite them. And Camille had suggested this whole idea of like… a double date of sorts. Er, I guess triple date if Anathema and Newt are going to be along, but you know what I mean.”

Aziraphale stares at him for a long moment. “Who… paired up with who?”

“Well, Anathema and Newt, obviously,” Crowley says in a rush. “And then… Jasper and you because he fancies you and I’d go with… Camille.”

Aziraphale blinks at him. “You— why would you go on a date with Camille?”

Crowley doesn’t exactly miss how that’s the first thing Aziraphale points out, rather than dissecting the idea of going on a date with a man. “Well, I wouldn’t, first of all. She’s annoying. And not that much of a looker, honestly, but it’s not a date, per say. She knows I’m gay. I told her I’m gay. She knows it’s not like, a real date. It’s just in the spirit of, you know. Smoothing things out. That kind of thing.”

Aziraphale stares at him.

“Look,” Crowley says. “Apparently this Jasper bloke really likes you.”

“Well, then, why doesn’t he ask me on a date himself?” Aziraphale asks. “Instead of sending it through two separate people?”

Crowley blinks. “He’s— shy. I guess.”

Aziraphale looks away. He’s quiet for a long time. “I’ve never actually… been on a date with anybody.”

Crowley has to physically stop himself from sputtering; he’s less successful in stopping the wave of jealousy that washes over him. “You’d— actually consider, then?”

Aziraphale looks back at him, a slight blush tinging his cheeks. “Well I suppose if he’s asking,” he says quietly. “He’s— nice enough. And… attractive.”

Crowley doesn’t respond; he’s not sure if he trusts himself to. Instead, he reaches for his wine glass and finishes off what’s left in it, suddenly feeling as though he needs to be piss drunk as soon as possible.

He sets the glass back down, trying to act casual. “Okay,” he says. “I’ll, er, let Camille know.”

“Alright,” Aziraphale says softly. He refills Crowley’s glass without saying anything to him. Crowley takes a sip, and then another, and finishes the glass without looking at him.


Saturday, September 15, 1990

Newt’s Birthday

London


Jasper and Camille are standing outside of the club, leaned against the wall, when Crowley and Aziraphale arrive. Jasper is wearing something similar to what he had on when Crowley first met him; Camille has, unfortunately, opted to wear the tacky fruit pants. Crowley has to stop himself from grimacing when he sees her, immediately regretting to agreeing to an evening with her. 

She perks up when she sees them; Jasper does, too, although admittedly he seems far more anxious. Crowley and Aziraphale come to a stop a few paces from them, and the four of them stand in complete silence for a moment.

“Hi,” Aziraphale says to Jasper.

“Hi,” Jasper returns immediately, smiling and clearly nervous.

There’s a long pause; Camille stands between them beaming at the three of them, clearly trying to keep things from being awkward out of sheer willpower.

Crowley clears his throat. “You’re here early.”

“Oh, yes, I like to be early,” Camille says quickly.

The four of them stand in silence.

“Just waiting on Anathema and Newt,” Crowley says.

Jasper is standing next to her, looking at Aziraphale and grinning giddily at him; Aziraphale is shyly staring at something on the sidewalk he seems to find incredibly interesting.

“You said it was Newt’s birthday?” Camille asks with a smile.

“Yup,” Crowley says, already wanting to go home.

They seem to have exhausted all their conversation topics quickly; Crowley is even considering pointing out the weather, when Anathema and Newt arrive, much to everyone’s relief.

The inside of the club has a very subdued atmosphere; it has low, neon lighting, and tables for couples scattered throughout. The man standing at the door eyes their group, then says, “We don’t have any booths for large parties left. You’re going to have to sit separately.”

Which is how, to his extreme disappointment, Crowley finds himself seated across from Camille, with his back to Aziraphale and Jasper, who are halfway across the room, anyway. 

“Fancy that,” Camille says with a shy laugh. “Come all the way out to make sure things go smoothly and we don’t even get to sit together.”

“Almost makes me wish I’d stayed home,” Crowley says flatly.

Crowley orders a rum and Coke, and Camille simply orders a Coke. “I don’t drink,” she tells him.

“I do,” Crowley says, before downing nearly all of his cocktail in one go.

They sit in silence for a moment. Crowley has to restrain himself from turning around in his seat. 

“How old is Newt turning?” Camille asks.

“Twenty-seven,” Crowley says shortly.

“Oh, cool,” Camille says, desperate for conversation. “How old are you?”

“Twenty-nine.”

She nods. She looks like she’s waiting for him to ask her in return. He takes another sip of his drink instead.

“I’m twenty-six,” she says, finally. “My birthday is in November.”

There’s another long moment of silence.

“When’s your birthday?” she asks.

“October,” Crowley says.

She hesitates. “What day?”

“Twenty-sixth.”

“Oh,” she says cheerfully. “Scorpio buddies.”

“I’m not really into astronomy,” Crowley admits; he finishes his drink and stares pointedly across the room.

Camille takes a sip of her Coke. “You’re not having much fun, are you?”

Crowley glances at her. “What gave it away?” he asks flatly.

“Body language and tone,” she says earnestly, even though it was a rhetorical question.

He blinks at her; she’s not the worst person in the world. By all means, there are far worse people. As far as Crowley can tell, she’s queer, which automatically makes her easier to be around. She doesn’t seem to be capable of taking cues unless they’re outright stated, but Crowley is used to that, being friends with Newt; besides, she might be autistic, too, so he decides not to count it as a negative point. She’s also not terrible to look at; she has her fair share of unflattering angles, especially when flustered, but she’s put on eyeliner this evening and actually looks quite nice. 

She’s definitely annoying, Crowley is certain of that, but there’s worse company to be had. He could be on a date with Beelzebub. 

He bites the bullet. “Have you ever liked someone who didn’t like you back?”

She smiles at him, almost like she’s in pain. “Yes,” she says immediately. “It has happened to me many, many, many times.”

“Oh,” Crowley says. “I— sorry. It’s only happened to me once.”

“Well, you’re gorgeous,” she says quickly, her cheeks flushing. “So I don’t imagine you’d have a hard time getting a date.”

Crowley shrugs. “I don’t do a lot of flirting.”

“Well, you’re very good at it when you make attempts,” Camille reasons. “Do you know why the other guy doesn’t like you back?”

Crowley frowns. “How do you mean?”

“I mean there are different ways that can happen,” she says. “Like, maybe he just doesn’t like you like that. That happened to me once. Or, maybe he explicitly doesn’t like you . That happened to me twice! I got called crazy by one guy for liking him and gross by another guy for asking him out. Or maybe he just doesn’t like men. I once fell madly in love with a straight girl.”

Crowley hesitates. “I… think he just doesn’t like me,” he admits. “I’d… like to think he doesn’t think I’m gross. Or crazy.”

“You’re not,” Camille assures him.

“But I honestly don’t even know if he’s queer,” Crowley admits. “He’s… confusing me.”

“Sending mixed signals confusing you, or, like, wanting to experiment with guys confusing you?” she asks.

Crowley blinks. “You seem to have a lot of experience with this.”

“Well,” she shrugs, a tight smile on her face, “it happens. You didn’t answer my question.”

“Sending mixed signals,” Crowley tells her. “Or… no signals at all?”

She tilts her head to the side. “How do you mean?”

“I mean he’s…” Crowley scratches the back of his neck. “He’s… I don’t know. Like, we flirt, sometimes, but I can never tell if he means it, or if it’s just, like, banter. It definitely makes me kind of flustered.”

She takes a sip of her Coke. “How explicit is it? Like, is it just teasing, or are you outright complimenting one another and talking about things in a romantic context?”

“Just teasing,” Crowley tells her.

“Well, then, he’s probably not taking it seriously,” she says. “Some people need to be directly told that they’re being pursued, otherwise they never realize it.”

“Ngk,” Crowley says.

“What’s stopping you from outright saying something, if you don’t mind my asking?” Camille asks.

He hesitates. “He’s my friend,” he tells her. “We go to the same church. And if he is queer, he’s… having a difficult time being okay with it. I don’t want to fuck things up. Or rush him. Or push him into doing something he wouldn’t be comfortable doing. I just don’t want to take advantage.”

“That’s understandable,” she says softly. “Maybe you should just sit him down and have a conversation with him about it.”

“Maybe,” Crowley says distantly, really struggling not to turn around in his chair to gaze longingly at him.

“And maybe,” Camille continues warily, “next time you fancy someone, you shouldn’t set them up on a double date?”

He looks back at her pointedly, blushing furiously. “This whole thing was your idea!” he says defensively. 

“You didn’t have to take me up on the offer!” she exclaims. “You could’ve just said no, I called dibs!”

“I didn’t—!” Crowley puts his head in his hands for a moment, before looking back up at her. “I did not call dibs. And I didn't think he was going to agree. For months I’ve been telling him! That bloke at the cafe fancies you! And all I’ve gotten in response is no, no, no of course he doesn’t, and even if he did, I’m not gay, and then as soon as I offer him the opportunity of a date he— fucking says yes!”

Crowley puts his head in his hands again. Camille takes another sip of her Coke.

“I’m sorry,” she says quietly. “But even if I hadn’t brought it up, or even if you hadn’t said yes to the idea, if you don’t make a move, sooner or later somebody else will.”

Crowley glares at her. She wilts into her chair. “I’m just saying. He’s a cutie.”

“Very funny,” Crowley says bitterly. “I don’t want to talk about it anymore.”

They sit in silence for a long moment.

“I’m sorry,” she says again. “I get the feeling you really don’t want to be here, which is understandable. If I liked somebody and I had to sit across the room and watch them on a date with somebody else, I wouldn’t exactly be keen. And I’m sure being on a date with me—”

“This isn’t a date,” Crowley interjects.

“Okay,” she says. “Ow. But fine. Fair enough.”

She finishes her Coke. “Listen, I know we just got here, but if you’d like me to pretend to get sick, I can run into the ladies room. If Anathema follows me— which I doubt she will, she’s getting pretty cuddly with her boy over there— I’m a decent enough actress to make it seem convincing.”

Crowley blinks. “Seriously?”

“Sure,” she says. “This place is fun, but it’s making me nervous. Bad sensory. Can you drive me home if I bail us out?”

“Sure,” Crowley agrees.

“Cool,” she says; she picks her bag up out of her lap and pulls some cash out. “Pay for my drink while I’m pretending to throw up. I’ll stop by Jasper and let him know I don’t feel good and you’re going to drive me home.”

“Okay,” Crowley says, taking the cash. “I’ll meet you outside.”

Camille gives him a thumbs up, and then stands rather abruptly and dashes towards the bathroom. It’s fairly convincing. She meets Crowley outside by his car.

“Oh, wow,” she says. “Your car is really nice.”

“I know,” Crowley says.

She seems very enthralled to even just sit in the passenger seat. She gives him her address. 

“You’ll have to give me directions,” he tells her.

“You’ll have to be patient with me, then,” she says. “I don’t know my left from my right.”

He gets her home eventually, after learning that she truly doesn’t know her left from her right when she tells him to turn left when she means right on more than one occasion. 

“Okay,” he says when he pulls up in front of her building. “Goodnight.”

“Night,” she says, unbuckling her seatbelt. “I’m sorry, again. Next time you come into the cafe I’ll try to bother you less.”

“Sounds like a plan,” Crowley says bluntly. “Goodnight. Thanks, Camille.”

She pauses, the smile on her face faltering. “What did you just call me?”

Crowley frowns, looking at her. “Camille?”

She stares at him, her smile slowly slipping off her face. “That’s not my name?”

Crowley stares back at her. “It’s not?”

“No?” she says, sounding rather hurt. “That’s— that’s not even close to my name. Have you thought my name was Camille this whole time?”

“Yeah,” Crowley admits. “I— sorry. I… sorry.”

They stare at each other for a moment.

“What is your name?” he asks.

“Collette,” she says tightly. “I— that doesn’t even sound close to Camille. Why did you think my name was Camille?!”

Crowley swallows. “I probably wasn’t listening, to be honest.”

She stares at him for a moment, before she opens the door and abruptly climbs out of the car. “Okay. Goodnight. Drive safe.”

“Thank you,” Crowley tries to say, but she’s already shut the door and made a beeline for the lobby.


Sunday, September 16, 1990

Soho, London


Crowley doesn’t see much of Aziraphale at mass; he’s off work, so when he gets home, he goes back to sleep. He manages to make it past noon before he finally stops being able to doze, so he gets out of bed and immediately makes himself nervous wondering if he should swing by the bookshop.

“I shouldn’t care, should I?” he asks Vesper, who appears to be getting ready to shed again. “I ought to just stay home with you and wait for you to shed, isn’t that right?”

She doesn’t even look at him. He sighs loudly and grabs his keys, telling himself he’ll think of an excuse on the way.

“Hey,” Crowley says when he slides up to the counter, having not yet thought of an excuse. “Didn’t really see you at mass this morning. Er— didn’t really get to stick around last night. How did your date go?”

“Oh,” Aziraphale says, blushing. “Fine. It was fine. Er— you and Camille sort of rushed out.”

“Oh, yeah,” Crowley says. “She got sick. Also, funny story, her name isn’t Camille.”

“It’s not?” Aziraphale asks, his eyes widening. “What is it?”

Crowley opens his mouth to tell him, before realizing he doesn’t remember. He shuts his mouth sheepishly. “I’ll have to get back to you on that.”

Aziraphale gives him a look. Crowley restrains himself from asking about the details of his date, and instead says, “So, listen, I’ve got the rest of the day off, so if you’re not up to anything later after the shop closes, we could… hang out, if you want.”

Aziraphale stares at him for a long moment. “No.”

“Oh?” Crowley says, caught off guard by the sternest of his response; his heart sinks in his chest a bit.

“No, sorry,” Aziraphale continues, looking away. “I was actually about to close up now because I— I have some very important business to be attending to.”

“Oh,” Crowley says again, quieter this time. “Okay.”

Aziraphale glances at him. “So, er… maybe you should be on.”

“Okay,” Crowley says, deflating as he steps away from the counter. “It’s— that works out anyways, really. Er… Vesper is gonna shed again, so, I— I want to be… on top of that.”

“Sure,” Aziraphale says, not looking at him.

“Right,” Crowley says. “Course. Okay. Er, have… fun.”

Aziraphale doesn’t say anything else to him; Crowley leaves the shop and spends the entire rest of the day feeling stupid for wanting to cry about it.


Friday, September 21, 1990

London


Crowley stops by the bookshop after he gets off work. It’s most definitely closed.


Saturday, September 22, 1990

London


When Crowley answers the phone, he practically collapses into his chair; there’s no quiet hiss within the background static of the call, which means Rose has landed in Scotland. His mum is back on the same slice of land he’s on, and all the tension practically melts out of his body.

“I’m here for two weeks,” Rose tells him. “I’ll get into London on the sixth of October, remember?”

“Yeah,” Crowley says, unable to stop the smile spreading on his face. “I remember. Got it on my calendar. Where do you need me to pick you up from?”

She tells him. He writes it down eagerly. 

“Okay,” he says. “You sound like a local call. Almost like you’re calling from Tadfield. Are you excited to come home?”

Rose sighs. “I’m a bit homesick, yes,” she admits. “But I will miss it.”

“Miss what?”

She’s quiet for a moment. “All of it.”

“How do you mean?” Crowley asks.

She sighs again, then coughs, then says, “Nothing you need to worry about. Two weeks.”

“Two weeks,” he echoes, too giddy to be nervous.


Sunday, September 23, 1990

London


Aziraphale is leaving church when Crowley gets there; he catches him in the doorway.

“Hey,” he says, trying and failing miserably to sound casual. “Where are you going?”

Aziraphale won’t look him in the eye. “I went to the eight a.m. service.”

“But we never—” Crowley catches himself. “You never go to the early services.”

“Well, I did today,” Aziraphale snaps. 

“Why?” Crowley asks, and he despises how hurt he sounds over it.

“I just did, Anthony, it— it’s not a big deal,” Aziraphale insists, and before Crowley can say anything else, he’s pushed past him, and left him standing alone.

Crowley spends the service in a haze. His mind wanders when he’s supposed to be praying and he doesn’t actually convey any sort of coherent message to Him. 

When he gets home, his phone rings, and Crowley lunges for it. Anathema wouldn’t call during work, and neither would Newt, and Rose had just called yesterday, she wouldn’t again. 

He picks the phone up eagerly. “Hello?”

“Hello Miss Cowwley! I’m calling about an accident you had that was not your fault! You are eligible for compensation!”

Crowley feels like he’s just been punched in the stomach for a number of reasons. He hangs up without saying anything and finally gives into the urge to cry about it.


Friday, September 28, 1990

Soho, London


Crowley does, reluctantly, consider himself shy. Reserved, at least. He also, unfortunately, is a drama queen. This is proved when he strides into the bookshop, acting far more confident than he feels, proclaiming loudly: “You’re avoiding me.”

He stops in front of the counter, where Aziraphale is looking at him nervously. “Why?”

Aziraphale blinks. “Anthony, I don’t want to talk about this right now.”

“But do you admit it?” Crowley asks. “You’re avoiding me?”

Aziraphale looks away from him. “Yes.”

“Why?” Crowley asks again. “Did I do something wrong?”

“No,” Aziraphale says.

“Did something happen?” Crowley presses. “Did… on your date, did you—?”

“No,” Aziraphale says again, sharper this time. “Whatever you’re thinking, no. Nothing happened.”

“So why won’t you talk to me?” Crowley asks, and he doesn’t want to cry, not now and certainly not here, but he has to know.

Aziraphale is quiet for a long moment, and then he shuts his book and steps out from behind the counter. “We’re closed, actually,” he says tightly, making his way towards the back room.

“Aziraphale,” Crowley says miserably, following him. “Aziraphale, that’s not going to work. Please talk to me. If I didn’t do anything wrong, and— and nothing happened, then why won’t you talk to me?”

“Anthony,” Aziraphale says sharply, turning around to look at him; Crowley pauses in the doorway of the back room, hesitating. “I don’t want to talk about this with you right now.”

“You talk about everything with me,” Crowley says quietly. “If— if you don’t want to talk about it now, then when?”

“Anthony.”

“I’ll wait.”

“Anthony.”

“I don’t want to lose this, Aziraphale!” Crowley says, vaguely aware that he’s being dramatic, but also aware that it’s entirely true. “I… like being your friend. If you’re going to push me away, if you want to stop being friends, I’d at least like to know why.”

Aziraphale still won’t look at him; he sets his book down on his desk. “I like being your friend, too, Anthony,” he says, “which is why I don’t think we shouldn’t be friends anymore.”

Crowley blinks. “You’re not making any sense.”

“I like being your friend,” Aziraphale says tightly. “A lot. Maybe a little too much. And I’m sorry, Anthony— I like you, I really do, but I’m struggling over how. You have a lot of wonderful things to say, and a lot of frankly incredible opinions about Catholicism, but I— I’m having trouble with this one.”

Crowley frowns. “I don’t understand. Which—?”

“Can I ask you a question?” Aziraphale asks suddenly.

Crowley swallows nervously. “Of course.”

“Do you think,” Aziraphale says slowly, like the words are hurting him to say, “that the AIDS crisis was a punishment—”

“No,” Crowley says immediately. “Aziraphale, don’t even finish that fucking sentence.”

“I’m asking—”

“And I’m telling you,” Crowley says, taking a step closer, “that whatever you have heard people say or write or preach or whatever about it, isn’t true.”

“How do you know that?” Aziraphale asks. “How do you know it’s not a part of His plan to punish people—”

“Because being gay isn’t a sin!” Crowley exclaims. “It’s not something that needs to be punished! And even if it were, God hasn’t stepped in with a fucking miracle— with a fucking plague, for thousands of years! Why would He start now?! He wouldn’t, Aziraphale!”

“The Bible says—”

“Surprise! The word “homosexual” didn’t appear in the Bible until 1983!” Crowley snaps. “The original Leviticus 18:22 verse that people like to toss around said man shall not lie with a male as one lies with a female.”

“That’s—”

“I’m not done!” Crowley insists. “Men and male were two different things! Men was the word used to represent someone who was legally an adult— male was used to represent someone underage. The passage is referring to and condemning pedophiles, Aziraphale, not gay people.”

Aziraphale is quiet for a long time. “There are other passages—”

“I could stand here and disprove every single thing in that book that has ever made you hate yourself, Aziraphale,” Crowley says. “But I don’t think you want to listen to that. You know what else is in that book? Passages about love. About loving one another— about God’s love for us, and how it is unconditional.”

Aziraphale doesn’t look at him.

“We’re all sinners, Aziraphale,” Crowley says earnestly. “And He loves us anyways.”

“Repenting for your sins doesn’t do anything if you keep sinning!” Aziraphale points out.

“Being gay isn’t a sin, Aziraphale!” Crowley insists; he steps towards him again, and Aziraphale moves away, fleeing to the couch, where he sits on the far side, putting as much distance between the two of them as possible. Crowley bites the inside of his cheek, trying to figure out how to go about this; he’s never actually had to have this conversation before.

“Aziraphale,” he says gently. “I know it can be hard. I know it can be hard. I went to Catholic school. I was raised extremely religiously. It’s scary being Catholic and realizing you’re queer. We’re taught from birth to feel guilty about everything that we are, but there’s nothing wrong with loving and wanting to be loved.”

Aziraphale doesn’t respond. 

Crowley sits down on the other end of the couch. “Remember when I came out to you? And I explained how I felt about myself in relation to God?”

“Yes,” Aziraphale says quietly.

“You were so quick to accept my reasoning,” Crowley muses. “You’re always so quick to agree with the kinds of things I have to say! You said I’m— what, that I’m fun to talk to? Isn’t that what you said? I have interesting things to say and I’m fun to talk to. You said you agreed with my interpretations and they were easing to the mind. You said that! If you like what I have to say about being queer and religious, why is this part of it so difficult?”

Aziraphale is quiet for a very long time. Crowley waits for him.

Finally, Aziraphale says very quietly, “Because it applies to me.”

“Aziraphale—” Crowley says softly.

“I’m gay,” Aziraphale says miserably; he’s never said it out loud before. “I’m gay and I—”

He pauses, clearly struggling; Crowley waits for him, watching him earnestly and openly. 

Finally, Aziraphale manages, “I’m gay and I— like you. As more than a friend.”

Crowley feels as though he’s been shoved off the couch and he’s falling through the floor, through the Earth and beyond it, drifting turbulently through something that might be Heaven or might be Hell. He can’t quite be sure. All he knows is that he can feel his heart beating in his chest and hear it in his ears.

“Aziraphale,” he breathes, “please look at me.”

Aziraphale shakes his head, and Crowley slides a fraction closer on the couch. “Aziraphale, please look at me.”

He does, and there are tears streaking down his face, and Crowley wants nothing more than to reach forward and wipe them away; he wants nothing more than to make certain he’s never this sad again.

“Aziraphale,” Crowley says gently, and he can feel the tears welling in his eyes, too. “I like you, too. As more than a friend.”

“Please don’t,” Aziraphale says, looking away. “Please don’t. We can’t.”

“Why can’t we?” Crowley asks. “Can I come closer? Please?”

Despite himself, despite his verbal protests, Aziraphale nods. Crowley scoots closer, still not touching him, not willing to cross a single line Aziraphale doesn’t explicitly give him permission to. “Aziraphale, tell me honestly— what do you feel when you see me?”

Aziraphale hesitates. “I get so happy every time I see you,” he admits, his voice shaking. “And then I get— so scared immediately after.”

“Scared of what?” Crowley asks softly.

“You know what,” Aziraphale snaps.

Crowley is quiet for a long moment. Finally, he takes a very deep breath, and says, “Whenever I see you, my heart beats fast and my palms get sweaty and sometimes I think about— sometimes I think about actually trying to court you or hold your hand and I literally get weak at the knees just thinking about you in a romantic context. And I’ve never doubted for one moment that it’s a feeling God intended me to feel. We’re born the way we are— there isn’t a way to change it or fix it or pray it away because it’s not meant to be changed or fixed or prayed away. God wouldn’t make us this way just to hate us.”

Aziraphale is quiet for a very long time. The two of them sit in silence together, nearly touching but not quite there yet, instead simply drawn to one another, waiting to see who will be the first to finally reach out. 

Finally, without saying anything, Aziraphale reaches between them and takes Crowley’s hand in his. Crowley feels dizzy for a moment, overwhelmed with affection and adoration for the man sitting next to him. Aziraphale wipes the tears from his eyes and looks at him earnestly.

“Anthony,” he says quietly. “If I asked you to kiss me, what would you say?”

For a moment, Crowley thinks he’s actually going to die. He thinks that there, in the back room of a used bookshop in Soho, he is going to drop dead, and he finds himself having little to no issues with this, simply because of the elation he feels at such a statement.

“I would say,” Crowley breathes, trying to choose his words slowly, “that… despite the fact that you’ve heard the anecdote about what I did at a particular concert, I tend to be very particular about who I kiss.”

“Oh?” Aziraphale asks.

“Yeah,” Crowley says, blushing. “In that, I only kiss people who I like so much, I fear I would die if I didn’t kiss them. And with that being said, I can’t believe I’ve ever wanted to kiss anybody who isn’t you.”

Crowley leans forward and kisses him.

It’s quite possibly the most intoxicating thing he’s ever experienced. He feels like his entire body is filled with electricity; the pure elation and infatuation he feels mingling with the adrenaline coursing through him makes him feel like he could do anything in the world, but the only thing he wants to do is kiss Aziraphale. As he reluctantly breaks the kiss, he can— quite literally— only pray that Aziraphale feels the same way.

Aziraphale doesn’t say anything, but he doesn’t let go of Crowley’s hand. 

Finally, he says, “I’ve never kissed anyone before.”

Crowley thinks he’s going to melt off the couch and dissolve into the floorboards. “I didn’t mean to steal it.”

“You didn’t steal it,” Aziraphale assures him quietly. “I asked you to take it.”

“Aziraphale,” Crowley says. “I don’t mean to rush you. Please don’t let me make you do something you don’t want to do.”

“I wanted to kiss you,” Aziraphale says, his confidence building. “In fact, I’d like to do it again.”

Before Crowley can respond, Aziraphale pulls him down into another kiss. Crowley eagerly melts into it, delighted to be on the receiving end. It lasts longer than the first, but it still sets Crowley’s heart off beating so fast he wonders if kissing Aziraphale is going to be detrimental to his health. Even if it was, he wouldn’t stop.

Crowley breaks the kiss, pressing their foreheads together, the two of them clearly frazzled but trying to remain composed.

Crowley swallows nervously. “Are you alright?”

Aziraphale nods, the faintest movement of his head. “Are you?”

Crowley grins, then, and once he starts he can’t stop, unable to keep an enormous smile off his face. “Honestly? I think you’re setting off my Raynaud’s.”

Aziraphale frowns. “What?”

“It gets triggered when I’m nervous, and I’m pretty fucking nervous right now,” Crowley says, still grinning like an idiot. “In a good way, I promise. I— I’ve never been so excited to kiss somebody.”

Aziraphale begins to mirror his grin. His face is still wet with tears; Crowley takes the opportunity now to wipe them away. “Did it make you happy?” he asks quietly. “To kiss me?”

“Yes,” Aziraphale says immediately.

“Are you scared?” 

“Yes,” Aziraphale says. “But… not of you. Not of… this. Not of… Him.”

Crowley sighs, ridiculously relieved. “You have no idea how happy it makes me to hear you say that.”

“I can take a guess,” Aziraphale mutters.

“Oh, yeah?”

“Probably about as happy as I feel to be holding your hand.”

Crowley smiles, glancing down at where their fingers are intertwined. Indeed, the tips of his fingers are turning white. It makes him laugh a little bit. 

“I feel silly asking you this,” Crowley says quietly, “seeing as I turn thirty in a couple of weeks. But if I asked you to be my boyfriend, what would you say?”

Aziraphale hesitates, staring into his eyes. “I would say you’re lovely,” he whispers, “but you’re going a bit fast for me.”

“We can go slow,” Crowley assures him immediately, almost frantically. “We can go as slow as you need— a snail’s pace, really. Nothing but chaste kisses and holding hands for as long as you like— I’m more than willing to wait. You’re more than worth it.”

Aziraphale blushes, smiling sheepishly. “Well, aren’t you chivalrous.”

“I have been waiting for somebody—” he just barely stops himself from saying to love, “—like you since I’ve known what kind of relationship I wanted. If I have to wait thirty more years to kiss you again, so be it.”

“Well, patience is a virtue,” Aziraphale says quietly. “But I’m also not cruel. Just… understand, please, it’s… an adjustment.”

“Of course,” Crowley breathes.

“I’ve barely even admitted it to myself,” Aziraphale continues. “Just… slowly.”

“Slowly,” Crowley agrees. “Slowly is good. Slowly is— great, honestly. If we were going any faster my heart might give out on me.”

Aziraphale laughs, and Crowley follows his lead, and then Aziraphale kisses him, and Crowley finds it nearly impossible to object, and so he simply must kiss him back.


Saturday, September 29, 1990

Soho, London


Crowley comes into Anathema’s shop on his lunch break, and finds her sorting through things meticulously behind the counter.

“Hey,” he says, sliding up, unable to stop the enormous grin that breaks out on his face. “Need to talk to you,” he adds giddily.

“About what?” Anathema asks, not looking at him.

“Something very important,” Crowley says, and he’s having a very difficult time restraining himself from being openly ecstatic. “I need to see the look on your face when I tell you.”

“Okay, okay,” Anathema says, doing her best to finish up.

He drums his hands excitedly on the counter until she finally turns around, exasperated. “What?”

“I kissed him!” Crowley practically shouts; he feels like a teenager leaning against the counter and squirming like he’s never had a crush on anyone.

Anathema’s eyes go wide. “You what?!”

“I kissed him!” Crowley says again. “And then he kissed me! And then he kissed me again! And after that I kind of lost track of who was kissing who because we were just kissing!”

“Aziraphale,” Anathema says sternly. “You are talking about Aziraphale, right?”

“Yes,” Crowley says happily, almost dreamily. “I kissed Aziraphale. Aziraphale is my boyfriend.”

Anathema practically shrieks. “You’re using the b-word and everything?!”

“Mhm,” Crowley says, and this time it most definitely is dreamy.

“You bastard!” Anathema cries, absolutely delighted. “Who asked who? Wait— who kissed who? Tell me everything— tell me every single minute detail, Anthony, I swear to God, I want to know everything, from the tip of his tongue to what kind of socks you were wearing.”

“No tongue,” Crowley admits.

“Oh, there had to be tongue,” Anathema says, disbelieving.

“Nope, sorry to disappoint,” Crowley says cheekily. “We’re taking it rather slow— you wouldn’t know anything about that.”

She smacks him on the arm and he laughs loudly.

“I really do have to go buy myself lunch—” he says, and then continues over her protests, “—but I’ll call you! I really will! Tonight! And I’ll tell you what kind of socks I was wearing!”

“You’re a bastard!” she laughs loudly, smiling as he disappears out the door with a grin on his face to rival hers.


Sunday, September 30, 1990

London


Crowley sits next to Aziraphale in the pews. Neither of them say anything to one another, but neither of them can quite keep the smiles off their faces either.

Chapter Text

Friday, October 5, 1990

Tenth Session

London


Anathema and Newt host again, and when she opens the door, she’s smiling. She leans against the door, her smile getting impossibly wider when she glances down to see their hands intertwined.

“I spy two lovesick lovebirds,” she teases, stepping aside to let them in. “For the record, Aziraphale, I’ve been telling him to ask you out for months.”

Aziraphale blushes, smiling sheepishly. “Truthfully, I might not have said yes a month ago.”

“See, I wasn’t asking him out for a reason,” Crowley says, shrugging his coat off. “I’m smart like that.”

“Right,” Anathema says, rolling her eyes. “ Anyway. You two are sickeningly cute. Glad we don’t have to keep dragging Anthony out of the house to third wheel us.”

“Now you can third wheel us as a couple!” Newt calls from the kitchen.


Saturday, October 6, 1990

London


Crowley had the idea of making his mum a sign to hold up at the airport, like he was some kind of chauffeur, but he had run out of time to put the effort in (mostly because he had been spending an awful lot of his free time at a certain bookshop in Soho). Instead, when he greets her, his attempt to hug her is avoided by her handing him her carry-on bag. He tries not to dwell on how much it stings.

He takes her to lunch somewhere he knows they won’t run into anyone he knows, and he sits quiet and attentive to listen to the stories she didn’t get to over the phone. 

“And I have an array of photos I need to get developed,” she says. “I’ll get that done once I settle back in Tadfield.”

“I can drive you down tonight,” Crowley offers.

“Oh, no,” Rose says. “You know I don’t like London all that much, but I’d like to see your flat. Maybe you can show me your church.”

“I can show you my flat,” Crowley assures her. “But you wouldn’t like my church.”

He does, indeed, show her his flat. Despite her protests, he introduces her to Vesper, and she eventually relents to petting her once or twice, simply because Crowley is very insistent upon it.

“Ugh,” Rose says, pulling her hand away sharply. “I don’t like how it feels.”

“She,” Crowley corrects her, placing her back in her terrarium. “She’s a lady.”

“Right,” Rose says. “Oh! I have something for you— I think you’re going to like it.”

She produces a postcard; she had sent Crowley postcards routinely while she was out of the country, so it puzzles him as to why she feels the need to give this one to him personally. It’s from Glasgow. 

“Thanks, mum,” he says, trying to sound enthused over a city he could easily drive to if he wanted to. 

She rolls her eyes. “Flip it over.”

He does so.

To Anthony,

My best wishes.

Freddie Mercury

Crowley grabs the top of the chair he’s standing next to so he doesn’t fall over. His eyes are the size of dinner plates. “Is this real?”

“Of course,” Rose says with a smile. “Funny, I met him in the smallest little cafe across from where I was staying. I wasn’t sure if it was even him at first, but I know you well enough to know that if I said I thought I saw him on my trip, you’d spend the rest of your life agonizing over it. So I asked and he said yes and I told him my son Anthony is a very big fan, would you mind signing this for him? And of course he did. He’s quite a gentleman. Looked a bit under the weather, though.”

Crowley swallows. He’s still staring down at the postcard. “Thank you,” he breathes.

“Well, I figured you’d only like a souvenir if it was specific to your interests,” Rose teases.

“No, seriously, thank you,” Crowley says, looking up at her. He restrains himself from explaining that he’s practically in love with Freddie Mercury, but only barely. Instead he says, “This is the best gift I’ve ever received.”

“Oh, hush,” Rose says sheepishly. 

“I’m being serious,” Crowley says. “I don’t even know what I’m going to do with this, I— thank you.”

Rose waves him off. She pauses. “You keep your phone on your table?”

Crowley looks down at his phone. “Yeah.”

“Why?” she asks. “That’s not very… polite. What do you do when you have guests?”

“I only have two friends,” Crowley reasons. 

And a boyfriend, he reminds himself with a sudden giddiness. Two friends and a boyfriend. 

Crowley tries and fails to keep himself from grinning. Rose notices. “What?”

“Nothing,” Crowley says, looking down at the postcard in his hands. “It’s— nothing. Thank you for this. I’m gonna go put it somewhere safe.”


Sunday, October 7, 1990

Tadfield


Everyone else in the village is excited to see Rose back in town; she spends most of her morning at the church after mass talking to anybody who wants to hear anything about her trip. Crowley, not wanting to hear the same stories twice, promises to meet her at home, and spends the rest of the morning in the garden. 

“Mr. Crowley?” 

Crowley looks up, somewhat startled. Adam is perched on the fence, peering down at him. He looks different, somehow. Older. Wiser, maybe. Crowley shakes it off and offers him a smile. “Hey, Adam.”

“My mum sent me over,” Adam explains. “Is it true your mum is back in town?”

“That it is,” Crowley says happily.

“Cor,” Adam says. “My mum would like to extend an invitation to invite her over for dinner. And you, too, I think. She didn’t say you, too, but I think it was, er, implied.”

“Thank you, Adam,” Crowley says. “I’ll be sure to let her know. We’ll ring with an answer in a bit.”

“Okay,” Adam says.

He stays and watches Crowley for a moment. “Okay,” he says again, and then he hops off the fence and pedals off.

Crowley is left alone with his thoughts, then. It’s cool out; almost enough to trigger his Raynaud’s, but not quite. Remarkably, there are very few clouds in the sky. He lets his mind wander, and it wanders to Soho, and he catches himself grinning to nobody. Self-consciously, he checks behind him to make sure he hasn’t been caught daydreaming, and then he feels silly for feeling like he’s going to get caught.

Crowley rubs the stem of his witch hazel. “Can I confide in you?” he asks quietly. “And if you tell any of your friends, I’ll rip you out of the ground and shred you in front of an audience.”

The witch hazel sits silently; it rustles in the breeze, a bit, almost as if it’s trembling. Crowley sighs. “I feel like I’m sixteen,” he says. “But not— not in the fun way. I gotta come out to my mum again, but I know it’s gonna make everything weird again. We’re barely back to where we used to be, and it’s been ten years. But I’ve—” a smile breaks out on Crowley’s face, despite himself, “— I’ve got a boyfriend now, so I can’t exactly dance around the subject anymore.”

The witch hazel doesn’t respond. Crowley sits in silence for a long moment.

“I should tell her,” he says, more to himself than to any of his flora friends. “I suppose there’s no harm.”

The witch hazel sits unmoving in front of him.

“Well, there’s a little harm,” Crowley says regretfully. “She’s going to make it weird. She’s probably gonna wonder why I even— why I’m even queer at all. She probably thinks you can’t be more than one thing.”

He rubs a leaf between his fingers. “Whatever. She’ll get used to it. She’ll make it weird, but she’ll get used to it.”

He looks back up at the sky. “I suppose today’s as good a day as any.”

Rose gets home shortly after noon. “Anthony?” she calls out into the backyard. “Can you come inside? There’s something I need to talk to you about.”

Crowley stops what he was doing. He’s not sure he likes her tone very much. He follows her inside and bites the bullet. “There’s something I need to talk to you about, too.”

“Okay. I made tea,” she says, gesturing to the two mugs on the coffee table. “Won’t you sit down?”

Crowley does so. “I’m not sure I like where this is going.”

Rose doesn’t comment. She takes a sip of her tea, waits for Crowley to do the same, and then says, “I haven’t been entirely honest with you.”

“Okay, now I’m absolutely certain I don’t like where this is going,” Crowley says anxiously. “What about? Is everything okay?”

Rose is quiet for a moment, clearly choosing her words carefully. “When I went to the doctor back in February—”

Crowley’s pulse spikes; he sets his tea down lest he drop it.

“—they thought… how do I explain this…” Rose mutters. She sighs, then coughs, which sends Crowley’s heart rate skyrocketing, and then she finishes sighing and asks, “Do you want the shortest version possible?”

“Yes,” Crowley says tightly.

Rose nods. She takes a breath, like she has to physically prepare herself for it. “Lung cancer.”

Crowley blinks at her.

“Specifically non-small cell lung cancer, which I suppose is the best type to have, besides… not having it,” Rose continues grimly. “Stage three, when they found it. Not… great odds, if I’m being honest with you.”

Crowley stares at her. He blinks again. If he had still been holding his tea, he would have dropped it by now. “Are you fucking with me?”

“Anthony,” Rose chides weakly. “Language.”

“Please tell me you’re fucking with me,” Crowley says; his eyes are glassy. “Please tell me that’s a joke.”

“It’s not a joke, Anthony,” Rose says sternly. “That would be a cruel thing to joke about.”

“Well I have a cruel sense of humor,” Crowley says, his voice breaking. “Why— you— no.”

“Anthony,” Rose says softly.

“No,” Crowley pleads; he blinks again, and it sends two neat trails of tears cascading down his cheeks. “No…”

“Do you see now,” Rose asks slowly, “why I wanted to leave? Why I wanted to go wander around for a bit? Why I asked you to quit smoking?”

Crowley takes a deep, shuddering breath; when he lets it out, it’s a sob. “Why didn’t you tell me?”

“I didn’t want to worry you, Anthony,” Rose says softly.

“I told you,” Crowley says, practically sobbing, “you had to tell me if something was wrong. I told you you had to tell me if something was wrong.”

“Anthony, I wanted to go have a nice time,” Rose says. “I wanted to go exploring. I’ve always wanted to go, and I got to.”

“Yeah, you went out exploring, good for you,” Crowley snaps. “You went out exploring sick. Without telling me. Without telling anyone. What if something had happened, mum?! What if—”

“You can spend all day dreaming up scenarios, Anthony,” Rose says. “But nothing happened. I’m fine.”

“Except you’re not fine!” Crowley says harshly. “You’re not fine because you’ve got fucking cancer!”

“Language! Please, Anthony!” Rose exclaims. “I didn’t keep it from you to make you upset! I kept it from you because I was going to travel anyway, and I was afraid the stress might kill you if you knew!”

“The stress is gonna kill me now!” Crowley says. He starts to say something, but he gets choked up, so instead he grips the edge of the couch cushion and shuts his eyes, breathing ragged. He attempts to collect himself. “Did your doctor give you… a time frame?”

“Anthony…” Rose says softly.

“How long do you have to live?” Crowley snaps; he opens his eyes, tears continuing to fall. “You have to tell me. You have to tell me the truth.”

Rose is quiet for a long moment. “With treatment… sixteen months. Maybe two years. Maybe more.”

Crowley stares at her. “How long without treatment?”

She hesitates. “It’s… hard to say.”

Crowley looks like he’s going to break into a million tiny pieces. “You left… the country… without knowing… how long… you had… to live ?”

“What was my alternative, Anthony?” Rose hisses.

“You— your alternative?!” Crowley practically shouts; he stands up, pacing angrily. “Your alternative was sixteen months! Maybe two years! Maybe more!”

“I didn’t want to spend the rest of my life seeking treatment for something that was going to kill me anyway, Anthony!” Rose snaps. “I wanted to see new places. I wanted to live my life!”

“You didn’t know how long you had to live it!” Crowley shouts.

“Don’t raise your voice at me!” Rose shouts back; the exertion sends her into a coughing fit. The sight of it, with context, makes Crowley cry harder.

“What if you had died?” he asks miserably. “What if you had died in fucking— Spain or some place and you just fucking disappeared forever!”

“Somebody would have called you,” Rose says quietly.

“That’s not reassuring!” Crowley exclaims.

“I prayed every single night—”

“It doesn’t work like that!” Crowley cries. “It doesn’t fucking work like that, mum! God doesn’t cure cancer! Prayers don’t cure cancer! Medicine cures cancer! Doctors cure cancer! You can’t just pray it away!”

“I wasn’t trying to pray it away!” Rose snaps. “I was praying to stay well until I got home! And it worked, did it not?!”

Crowley shakes his head. “Please, please tell me you’re fucking with me,” he pleads, his voice breaking. “ Please tell me it’s a joke.”

“I wouldn’t joke about this, Anthony,” Rose says softly.

Crowley dissolves into tears, stumbling back towards the couch and collapsing onto it, crying loudly. Rose stares at him. She makes no move to comfort him.

She clears her throat. “What was it you wanted to tell me?”

Crowley’s stomach drops; cold fear drips through him. “Deirdre Young— invited us for dinner.”

“Oh,” Rose says quietly. “Alright.”

They sit in silence. The clock in the kitchen ticks, and Crowley counts the seconds, each of them holding a new meaning.


Friday, October 12, 1990

Soho, London


Crowley comes into the shop after work, his stomach tied into a complex array of knots. Aziraphale looks up from the counter and smiles warmly at him, and the flip Crowley’s stomach does manages to wind the knot tighter. He attempts to smile back, but the face he makes is more akin to a grimace. 

“Hi,” Aziraphale says when he gets to the counter. Crowley doesn’t respond; he reaches over and takes Aziraphale’s hand, and then presses a chaste kiss to his knuckles.

Aziraphale blushes. He retracts his hand shyly. “Coy,” he teases.

Crowley smiles for half a second, but then it drops right back off his face. Aziraphale frowns. “Are you alright?”

“No,” Crowley admits, his voice hoarse. “I… need to talk to you. A Conversation. With a capital C.”

“Alright,” Aziraphale says quietly. “I’ll close up and meet you in the back.”

Crowley doesn’t sit down on the couch in the back room, as much as he wants to. Instead, he leans against a shelf that houses an array of dusty books and waits. 

Aziraphale shuts the door behind him when he finishes closing up. “What’s wrong?”

“My mum has cancer,” Crowley says bluntly.

Aziraphale’s eyes widen. “Oh, dear,” he says quietly. “I’m sorry.”

“It’s lung cancer,” Crowley continues. “Stage three, last she checked. She’s not seeking treatment.”

“Oh, dear,” Aziraphale says again, this time sounding much more grim. “I’m sorry, Anthony.”

Crowley swallows thickly. “I think we should break up.”

Aziraphale looks incredibly startled. “Why?”

“Because you’re about to find out the hard way that I’m an easy crier,” Crowley says miserably. “And my mum is dying and I’m not going to be a very fun person to be around. Doesn’t seem like a fun set up for a relationship.”

“Anthony,” Aziraphale says softly. “We eased into this a week ago. I’ve fancied you for ages. I’m not letting you go that easily.”

Crowley rolls his eyes. “Don’t tease.”

“I’m not teasing,” Aziraphale says earnestly. “I don’t think you really want to break up.”

Crowley shakes his head. “It would make things easier. For both of us.”

“It might make things easier for me,” Aziraphale admits, “but it would make things hell for you. You’d be grieving two things.”

“Aziraphale—”

“When my mum died, I didn’t really have anyone close to me,” Aziraphale says. “Having someone would have made a world of difference in how I handled it. So unless you simply don’t like me anymore, I don’t think we should break up.”

He hesitates. “Do you still like me…?”

Crowley smiles weakly. “Yeah, I still like you.”

Aziraphale smiles; he steps forward and takes Crowley’s hand, lifting it so he can kiss his knuckles. Crowley doesn’t retract his hand. “You’re a dork.”

You’re a dork,” Aziraphale returns.

Crowley hums. “I… I’m gonna start going to church with my mum, again.”

“Okay,” Aziraphale says softly.

“That means I can’t go to church with you,” Crowley says slowly.

“Oh,” Aziraphale says, seeming to realize this. 

“And I haven’t… come out to my mum, yet,” Crowley admits. “I will. But it’s… it’s complicated. I’m waiting for a good time. But I will. And then maybe you can… come to church in Tadfield, too. So you don’t have to keep going to yours.”

“That would be nice,” Aziraphale says quietly.

Crowley reaches up with his free hand and cups Aziraphale’s cheek. “I’m sorry about all this.”

“Don’t be, it’s not your fault,” Aziraphale says softly. “I’m sure you’ve had a stressful week. How would you feel about a glass of wine?”

Crowley sways on his feet a bit. “I wouldn’t object to one,” he admits. “I also wouldn’t object to a kiss.”

Aziraphale smiles. “I think that can be arranged.”


Saturday, October 13, 1990

London


Anathema stops by after work with a bouquet of St. John’s Wort and a hug. 

“Do you want to talk about it?” she asks gently.

“No, thanks,” Crowley admits, willing himself not to cry. His eyes are glassy, though, so it doesn’t have much effect. “Honestly, I already whined about it to Aziraphale. I don’t really want to get into it again.”

“Sure,” Anathema says. “I’ll see you next weekend, yeah?”

“Yup,” Crowley says.

“You could stop into the shop for lunch, if you want,” Anathema offers. 

“You’re being way too nice to me,” Crowley says, grinning. “Who are you and what have you done with Anathema?”

She grins back at him. “You’re a loser.”


Sunday, October 14, 1990

Tadfield


Despite his own words, Crowley spends most of the service praying for Rose. He tries not to let her see him crying about it.


Friday, October 19, 1990

London


“I can’t believe you know how to make crepes!” Aziraphale says, delighted, and Crowley laughs and shakes his head.

“It’s honestly not that hard,” he tells him. “They’re just like… flat pancakes.”

“Well, I’m very impressed with you,” Aziraphale teases.

“Aw, thanks angel,” Crowley teases back. “Shall I add it to my list of special skills? Put it on my resumé?”

Aziraphale blushes fiercely. “What did you call me?”

Crowley pauses looking over the crepe he’s working on. “Hm?”

“You… called me angel,” Aziraphale says quietly.

“Oh,” Crowley says, blushing. “Yeah— well— s’just a pet name. I can call you something else if you don’t like it. Or I don’t have to use a pet name if you don’t want me to, whatever you like.”

“I like it,” Aziraphale insists with a smile. “I do. It’s… very sweet.”

Crowley glances at him shyly. “I thought it suited you.”

“Oh?” Aziraphale asks. “May I ask why?”

“Because secretly,” Crowley says in a hushed voice, “I would find it super hot if you had like a million eyes.”

Aziraphale shoves him. “You are the strangest person I’ve ever met.”

“Please don’t shame me!” Crowley exclaims dramatically. “Please don’t shame me and my eye kink! I can’t help it!”

The two of them dissolve into laughter. Crowley nearly burns the crepe he’s working on.

“I won’t shame you,” Aziraphale promises. “Although I worry I’ll have difficulty indulging it… my dear.”

Crowley blushes hard. “That’s sappy.”

“Oh, and angel isn’t sappy?”

“Angel is tasteful.”

“How do you feel about dear boy?”

“Whatever you want, sweetheart.”

“Oh, and you’re calling me sappy.”


Saturday, October 20, 1990

London


Crowley and Aziraphale get trapped in the lift at the same time as Ms. Potts and Sergeant Shadwell. She doesn’t miss the fact that Crowley and Aziraphale are holding hands. 

“Anthony,” Ms. Potts says as the door closes. “Don’t you have a birthday coming up?”

“Uh-huh,” he says; the lift moves far too slowly, in his opinion. “Next week.”

She nods. “I don’t suppose you know any dead people?”

Crowley nearly chokes on his own spit; he looks down at her. “I’m sorry?”

“Marjorie…” Sergeant Shadwell mutters.

“Oh, hush, it’s just a bit of fun,” Ms. Potts tells him. She looks up at Crowley. “I happen to be retired, but Madame Tracy can still occasionally pull aside the veil.”

Aziraphale smiles awkwardly. “Madame Tracy…?”

“It’s a business name, my dear,” she tells him sweetly. “For when I dabble with the occult. Of course, it’s all in good fun, but I haven’t done a seance in quite some time. I don’t suppose you’d be interested?”

“Oh, no—” Crowley tries to say, but she waves him off.

“It can be great fun, I assure you,” she says warmly. “A very fun thing to do for a birthday. Or perhaps for a date…?”

Crowley and Aziraphale let go of one another’s hands instinctively. The lift comes to a slow halt and the door creaks open.

“Thank you for the offer, Ms. Potts, but that’s quite alright,” Crowley says. “We’re— er— meeting Anathema and Newt— for dinner— and I don’t even— er— know any dead people, so there wouldn’t be much to talk about.”

“Well, there is your dad,” Aziraphale offers quietly.

“I don’t really want to talk to my dad, actually!” Crowley exclaims quickly; he grabs Aziraphale’s wrist and begins leading him down the hallway. “Thank you for the offer, Ms. Potts! Goodnight!”

“Let me know if you change your mind!” she calls after them with a giggle.


Sunday, October 21, 1990

Tadfield


“Why are you out?” Wensleydale’s voice comes from over the fence, and Crowley looks over his shoulder. “It’s cold.”

“I could ask the same of you,” Crowley says, sitting back.

“I’m going to Brian’s house,” Wensleydale says. “I just had to change after church. I saw you at church.”

“I saw you, too,” Crowley says. “Any particular reason you’ve stopped by the garden?”

“You’re gardening, but it’s quite chilly,” Wensleydale observes. “Why are you out in the cold?”

“Clearing my head,” Crowley admits. “And trying to make sure the garden survives until next spring.”

“You were crying at church,” Wensleydale says bluntly. “Why?”

Crowley blinks, taken aback. “I was praying about something.”

“What about?” 

Crowley offers him a wry smile. “That’s a very personal question.”

“Oh, sorry,” Wensleydale says, shrinking behind the fence a bit. “My dads say I have a penchant for asking personal questions. Do you know what the word penchant means?”

“Yes,” Crowley says. He vaguely wonders to himself at what age children start and stop doing the whole asking a million questions thing. “Well, tell Brian I say hello.”

“Oh, okay. Have a good day!” he calls, hopping down from the fence. Even after he pedals away, Crowley doesn’t have the energy to go back to working on the garden, instead opting to sit outside in the chill, alone with his thoughts, until his Raynaud’s starts to become too much of a problem.


Friday, October 26, 1990

Crowley’s Birthday

London


Crowley gives himself the gift of leaving early from work, so he can have time to go home and change and sit by himself for a few short minutes.

“I just want you to know,” Anathema says when they arrive, “that mimosas are, like, supposed to be a morning drink, and it’s six in the evening.”

“Fuck you,” Crowley says politely. “It’s my birthday. And you say that like you’re not excited to be drinking mimosas.”

“Oh, I’m excited,” Anathema assures him. “I’m very excited. Shut your eyes, I need to give you your present.”

Crowley hesitates. “That’s an alarming statement.”

“Just shut your eyes, idiot,” Anathema insists.

Crowley does so. He winces when she sets something on his face. “What the fuck—”

“Oh, calm down,” she says. “Open your eyes.”

He does; the world is several shades darker. “Are these sunglasses?”

“Yeah,” she says, grinning widely; behind her, Aziraphale and Newt have similar expressions.

Crowley frowns. “What’s wrong with them?”

“Nothing’s—” Anathema tries to say, but Crowley has already pulled them off. The lenses are shaped like hearts. 

Newt huffs. “I thought they suited you.”

“Are these from you?” Crowley asks with a smile; he clips them onto the front of his shirt. 

“His gift,” Anathema admits. “I’m giving you yours tomorrow. Don’t ask what it is.”

“Mysterious, I like it,” Crowley says.

“I’ve gone the more sentimental route, I’m afraid,” Aziraphale says, almost shyly; he hands Crowley a gift wrapped box.

Crowley sets it on the counter. “It’s kind of heavy,” he says. He rips the paper off messily, then uses his keys the cut the tape on the box. Inside are fourteen books.

Crowley looks closer at them. “Are these James Bond books?”

“Yes,” Aziraphale says. “They’re, ah, first editions.”

Crowley looks at him with wide eyes. “Fuck off, that’s not true.”

Aziraphale smiles at him. “Dealing with first editions is half of what I do for a living.”

“How long did it take you to find all these?” Crowley asks, staring at them. “How long have you been planning this?”

Aziraphale averts his gaze. “I don’t necessarily want to disclose that.”

“You must’ve been at this for longer than a month,” Anathema says, a bit awed. “Have you been planning this for longer than you’ve been dating?”

“You can get sentimental gifts for friends,” Aziraphale says. “Or for people you fancy.”

“Aw, angel, you fancied me? That’s so embarrassing,” Crowley teases, closing the box back up.

“Anthony, shut up, you told me you wanted to snog him back in March, don’t be an idiot,” Anathema says.

Crowley looks at her like he wishes he could dissolve through the floorboards. “Why would you say that?”

“He was blushing, I had to avenge him,” Anathema says. “Let’s have mimosas.”


Saturday, October 27, 1990

London


“So are you ever gonna tell me what this mystery present is?” Crowley asks, following Anathema into her and Newt’s room. “Because you leading me into your flat and continuing to shush me—”

“Shh.”

“—like that is starting to make me really nervous.”

“When are you not nervous?” Anathema asks.

“Point taken,” Crowley says. “Seriously, though, tell me what it is.”

“It’s a surprise,” Anathema insists.

“At some point, it has to stop being a surprise because you have to show me what it is,” Crowley says, annoyed. “You’re triggering my Raynaud’s. You’re causing me medical distress.”

“Medical distress is not a real thing,” Anathema retorts; she opens her bedside drawer and begins looking for something. 

“You’re causing me stress which is causing me medical problems, I call that medical distress,” Crowley says smartly.

Anathema stands back up. “Would you like to not be stressed?”

“I would love to not be stressed,” Crowley says. “Are you offering me what I think you’re offering me?”

“I’m offering you a joint,” Anathema says bluntly.

“Cool, I thought we just weren’t gonna say it,” Crowley says, sitting down on the edge of the bed. “You know, most of my desire to smoke stems from thinking I look cool while doing it.”

“Really? I thought it stemmed from your addiction to nicotine,” Anathema teases. “And you don’t look cool.”

“I look cool.”

“You never look cool.”

“I’m about to look so cool.”

“You’re about to look like a thirty year old sharing a joint with me. That’s not cool.”

“Actually, since this is my birthday present, you’re not allowed to make fun of me.”

“Actually, since I’m the one giving you a joint, I’m totally allowed to make fun of you.”


Sunday, October 28, 1990

Tadfield


“Will you be able to come down for All Saint’s Day?” Rose asks while they make their way home from church.

Crowley hesitates. “No. Sorry. Can’t get off,” he lies. “But we can celebrate on Sunday.”

“Oh,” Rose says. “Alright.”

Chapter Text

Thursday, November 1, 1990

All Saint’s Day

London


Aziraphale looks very surprised to see Crowley come into the shop. “I thought you’d be celebrating with your mum, now that she’s back in town.”

Crowley shrugs. “She sees me on Sundays. I figure you can have the Holy Days.”

“I… didn’t see you at church this morning,” Aziraphale says hesitantly.

“I didn’t want to go to church this morning,” Crowley says. “I am, however, craving an apple cider.”

Aziraphale smiles at him wryly. “I don’t think you should order an apple cider until you can remember the name of the young lady who serves them to you.”

Crowley waves him off. “It’ll come back to me,” he says. “It… won’t be weird for you to see Jasper, will it?”

“I shouldn’t think so,” Aziraphale says quietly. “I wasn’t… exactly subtle about having eyes for… someone else.”

Crowley blushes harder than he’d like to. “Oh, yeah?”

“We had a very good conversation about it, but— anyway,” Aziraphale says hastily. “I… would not mind a cup of cocoa. That is, assuming you’re asking me on a date?”

Crowley frowns at him. “I’m asking you to celebrate a Holy Day with me, Aziraphale,” he says, deadpan.

Aziraphale looks startled. “Oh— I— I’m sorry—”

“I’m just teasing,” Crowley says quickly, realizing the joke didn’t land. “I’m just teasing, of— of course it can be a date. I like dates. With you. I like you.”

Aziraphale relaxes as he realizes it was a joke. “I like you, too.”


Friday, November 2, 1990

Eleventh Session

London


“You know something?” Anathema says as Newt puts his notebook back into his bag. “I think this is, like, the first campaign we’ve ever done where Anthony hasn’t flaked on a session.”

Crowley takes a sip of his wine. “I’m suddenly busy the first Friday of December,” he says flatly.

“Well, it’s very fun, getting together,” Aziraphale says, looking at him. “I can’t imagine why you would, er, flake.”

“Especially because we’re his only friends,” Newt points out.

“I have other friends,” Crowley says.

“Your Satanist acquaintances— which is my new favorite rhyme, by the way— don’t count,” Anathema says.

“My mum is my friend,” Crowley retorts.

“That doesn’t make you sound as cool as you’d like, I’m afraid,” Aziraphale says apologetically.

“Well, sometimes, I just like being alone,” Crowley says simply.

“Is that what you call masturbating?” Anathema asks; she laughs loudly at the look on his face.

She and Newt stand to go, pausing when Crowley doesn’t join them. “Are you coming?”

Crowley hesitates; he glances at Aziraphale. “I can go.”

“Or you can stay,” Aziraphale suggests. “It’s— up to you.”

“I… might stay a bit, if that’s alright,” Crowley says with a slight smile.

“Okay,” Anathema teases, taking Newt by his arm. “Don’t do anything I wouldn’t do.”

“I wouldn’t do half of what you do do,” Crowley counters.

“Well, then, do something risqué,” Anathema offers, slipping out of the backroom with Newt on her arm.

“Ignore her, she gives bad dating advice,” Crowley says softly.

“Noted,” Aziraphale says with a smile. “In the meantime, I’m not looking to do anything risqué, but… kisses are nice.”

“Kisses are nice,” Crowley agrees eagerly, sliding closer to him. “Kisses are— good. Tame. Not risqué at all, I believe. Is what the kids are saying.”

Aziraphale laughs, and when they do kiss, they’re both almost smiling too wide to do it properly.


Saturday, November 3, 1990

London


“You’re lying,” Aziraphale says confidently.

“I am not lying!” Crowley exclaims, leaning forward. “I’m telling you the absolute truth, you know I read Jane Eyre and Pride and Prejudice and you gave me fucking— first editions of the original Ian Fleming Bond books! I like to read!”

“I don’t believe you read it,” Aziraphale says firmly. “I— I haven’t even read A Tale of Two Cities .”

“Well, you, sir, are a piss poor bookshop owner,” Crowley says. “I read it, and granted I hated every second of it, but I’m stubborn and I wasn’t going to stop once I’d started.”

Aziraphale hesitates. “How many classics have you read?”

“Test me,” Crowley says, grinning smugly.

Aziraphale thinks. “I don’t suppose you’ve read Great Expectations .”

Crowley groans loudly. “It’s basically a five-hundred page reminder on why you shouldn’t play lotteries.”

Aziraphale chuckles. “ Hamlet ?”

Crowley sits back on the couch dramatically. “I like old Billy’s comedies more if I’m being completely honest.”

“Really?” Aziraphale asks. “As much of a drama queen as you are?”

“Oh, haha,” Crowley says dryly. “I may be a drama queen, but at least I’m not a drama king going around murdering people.”

“He had good reason,” Aziraphale offers. 

“Oh, so you defend murder now,” Crowley says with a wicked grin. “Shall we segue into moral philosophy?”

“No, no, I have more guesses,” Aziraphale says. “ Jane Eyre ? Surely you must have read that one.”

Jane Eyre is my favorite book . And you’re not allowed to tell anybody I told you that.”

“I thought your favorite book was Casino Royale!” Aziraphale argues.

“Well, I lied!” Crowley says. “I lied because I didn’t want to sound like a huge dork who loves Jane Eyre .”

“What classics do you like, pray tell?” Aziraphale asks, leaning forward.

Crowley counts them out on his fingers as he talks. “ Jane Eyre . Pride and Prejudice . 1984 . Much Ado About Nothing . Fahrenheit 451 . Anna Karenina —”

“You have not read—!”

War and Peace !” Crowley exclaims triumphantly.

“You have not read War and Peace !” Aziraphale refutes. “It’s a thousand pages long!”

“It’s fifteen hundred pages, actually, and I did read it,” Crowley says stubbornly.

“Let me guess, you liked the war parts, but the peace parts were boring,” Aziraphale says knowingly.

“Okay, first of all!” Crowley says fervently, moving closer to him on the couch. “Marya Bolkonskaya is my favorite character, so write that down! Second of all, the war parts are literally so fucking boring. They’re all like, they marched here and then they marched there and they walked across a bridge and they wore their uniforms and boots and then this guy rode up on a horse and shouted at them about their boots and then rode away and then they walked somewhere else and were super horny the whole time. It’s fucking mind numbing. The rich inner lives of Moscow socialites are the best parts of the book.”

Aziraphale is looking at him like he wants to drag him into his arms and kiss him until neither of them can breathe. “I see.”

Crowley shakes his head, sitting back on the couch; Aziraphale follows him. “You don’t know me at all.”

“I do know you,” Aziraphale insists.

Crowley puts a hand over his eyes. “What color are my eyes, then?”

“Easy, brown,” Aziraphale says, leaning over him.

Crowley grins wickedly. “Wrong.”

Aziraphale’s smile falters. “Sorry?”

“They’re not brown.”

“They are brown.”

“No,” Crowley says. He lowers his hand from his eyes, staring up at him. “They’re amber.”

Aziraphale stares down into his eyes; they are, indeed, a lovely shade of amber. “Oh,” he says quietly; he brings his hands up to cup Crowley’s face, and he blushes fiercely. “My apologies. I’ve never… looked closely before.”

“S’fine,” Crowley says softly.

“They’re lovely,” Aziraphale says. “Your eyes, I mean. Also the rest of you. Lovely. Quite… lovely.”

“Please kiss me,” Crowley says breathlessly, his heart beating fast in his chest.

Aziraphale obliges him without reservation.


Sunday, November 4, 1990

Tadfield


“You seem distant,” Rose says.

Crowley looks over to her; he offers her a small smile. “Sorry.”

“Because of me?” Rose asks.

“No,” Crowley assures her. “It has nothing to do with you, I promise. Nothing bad. I’m actually quite happy.”

Rose smiles back. “Care to share why?” 

Crowley falters. He looks back at what he’s working on on the stove. “Things are just— going well. In London.”

“That’s nice,” Rose says. “You’ll be well set. Now all you need to do is find a nice young lady and settle down.”

Crowley doesn’t respond. He thinks about the night prior, about a thousand kisses exchanged between him and Aziraphale on his couch, and he bites his lip and tries to focus on what he’s doing. He pours a small amount of milk into the pot.

“Is that the right amount?”

“Huh?” Crowley asks, glancing at her.

“Is that the right amount of milk?” Rose asks, annoyed. “Because you always use less than the recipe says and the sauce ends up too thick and frankly it’s inedible.”

Crowley purses his lips. “I like it thick,” he says. “And I’m the one making it, aren’t I?”

Rose sighs loudly. She doesn’t say anything else to him.


Friday, November 9, 1990

London


“Did you walk here?” Crowley asks worriedly as he lets Aziraphale in.

“Oh, heavens no,” Aziraphale says. “I took the bus.”

“To what do I owe the pleasure?” Crowley asks, shutting the door. “Not that I mind you dropping in at all, I just— I was about to feed Vesper.”

“Ah,” Aziraphale says. “Well, it was— rather impulsive me to drop by without notice, I apologize—”

“Oh, no, it’s fine,” Crowley assures him eagerly. “I like seeing you. I just figured you wouldn’t enjoy watching Vesper eat a live mouse.”

Aziraphale wrinkles his nose. “Perhaps not.”

Crowley has Aziraphale wait by the door while he feeds Vesper, and then he returns. “Sorry about that— what did you need, angel?”

“Oh, nothing, really,” Aziraphale admits. “I went into Anathema’s shop today, and she sold me this.” He reaches into his coat pocket and pulls out a bottle of black nail polish. “She didn’t really give me much of a choice.”

“Oh, sick,” Crowley says, taking the bottle from him. “Do you paint your nails?”

“No,” Aziraphale says sheepishly.

Crowley taps the bottle against the palm of his hand. “Would you like to?”

Which is how they end up sitting on the floor of Crowley’s living room, Crowley with Aziraphale’s hands in his, meticulously painting his nails black.

“I was thinking,” Aziraphale says, “remember the other night when we were discussing literature?”

“Yes,” Crowley says with a smile. “It was quite a fervent discussion.”

“Right,” Aziraphale sighs happily. “You— asked if we could segue into discussing moral philosophy.”

“Sounds like something I would say,” Crowley admits. 

“Would… you be interested in that now?” Aziraphale asks. “I had something I’d been… wondering about. I couldn’t think of who I might talk to about it.”

Crowley smiles smugly. “I should warn you that I love talking about philosophy and asking questions about things I don’t understand, so if you start saying a bunch of shit I agree with, I’m probably going to end up snogging you.”

Aziraphale blushes. “You’ll have to wait for our nails to dry.”

They both laugh. 

Aziraphale sighs. “I think I might be a bad person,” he admits. “I keep having these horrible thoughts.”

Crowley smirks. “How Christian of you.”

Aziraphale frowns. “What is?”

“Thinking your thoughts alone make you a good or bad person,” Crowley explains. “I have horrible thoughts all the time. I once told you when I held Adam as a baby, I wondered what would happen if I threw him. And that’s not to mention the dreams I have.”

“Dreams involving Freddie Mercury?” Aziraphale asks teasingly.

“Wow, okay, I really wish you didn’t know about that,” Crowley says, grinning despite himself. “I have horrible thoughts all the time. I think about stealing things constantly. Sometimes I think about hurting myself. Sometimes when I’m having bad days I pick a house plant that’s underperforming and I just… shred it to pieces. But I’d rather be ripping a plant apart than something that can actually feel things. I’d rather be doing it to a plant than to myself.”

He glances at Aziraphale. “What are your bad thoughts about?”

Aziraphale doesn’t look him in the eye. “They come and go,” he admits. “Usually when I’m at the church. I’ve been in and out more than usual the past couple of weeks. They have me doing work there again. And sometimes when Gabriel speaks to me— or Michael, Christ, Michael gets on my nerves, I just… I want to say really horrible things to them. I want to do really horrible things to them.”

“Do those things freak you out?” Crowley asks.

“Kind of,” Aziraphale admits.

“Then that’s okay,” Crowley says. “If they’re upsetting you, it means you wouldn’t really act on them. I think my mum said her therapist told her that once. As long as you don’t act on your bad thoughts, and you feel bad about them and not good about them, I think you’re okay.”

Aziraphale stares at him for a moment. “What was that you said about saying shit you agree with and then wanting to snog?”

Crowley blushes, smiling and looking away. “You’ll have to wait for your nails to dry.”


Saturday, November 10, 1990

Soho, London


Crowley pops into the bookshop on his lunch break entirely because it’s warmer than the back room at the nursery. 

“Hi,” he says awkwardly, smiling at Aziraphale; he’s perched where he always is behind the counter. “I’m just stopping by to steal some of your heat. And maybe a kiss.”

“I’m not opposed to either of those things,” Aziraphale admits, setting his book down. “Suffering from the cold?”

“Yeah, it might have something to do with my blood vessel disorder, but who’s to say?” Crowley jokes, sliding closer to the counter. He catches sight of Aziraphale’s hands, and his smile fades. “You took the polish off.”

“Oh,” Aziraphale says, glancing at his hands. “Yes, I— have church tomorrow.”

He pauses. “I don’t suppose you’d be willing to come with me?”

Crowley looks at him for a moment. “I, er,” he says, “I’m— my mum—”

“I know,” Aziraphale says quickly. “I understand, you’re— going to church with your mum because she’s— I understand. It’s just— admittedly, it’s been… difficult. Without having you around.”

“Did someone say something?” Crowley asks, immediately defensive.

“Several someone’s, actually,” Aziraphale says, exasperated. “Not— to my face, not outright, but— heavily implied in my direction. And Father Malachi has certainly been…” he taps his fist on the counter, “ hammering in the sentiment.”

“Stop going,” Crowley insists weakly. “Aziraphale, please stop going—”

“I like going to church, Anthony,” Aziraphale insists.

“Do you?” Crowley asks, leaning forward against the counter. “Do you really? Because it makes you miserable. You’re surrounded by people who make you uncomfortable and you have to wake up early to go every single week when you can literally just pray on your own time.”

Aziraphale doesn’t respond. He looks exceedingly guilty.

“Look,” Crowley says, leaning against the counter. “If you want to keep going, keep going. But I’m just saying, would you rather go to church tomorrow morning, or would you rather I took you on a date?”

He reaches over the counter and tentatively puts his hand over Aziraphale’s. “Because a date with me won’t require you to remove your nail polish.”

Aziraphale huffs, smiling despite himself. “I think you should take me to church, and then on a date.”

“Okay,” Crowley says softly, grinning at him. “I’ll take you to church. Church date? Is that a thing?”

Aziraphale laughs. “Unfortunately, I don’t think you’ll be able to hold my hand.”

“That’s okay, I’ll just think about it,” Crowley says, tracing designs on Aziraphale’s wrist.

“Perhaps, soon, if you… tell your mum about me, we could stop going to church here altogether,” Aziraphale says slowly. “It would be a little funny if we both just disappeared.”

“Yeah,” Crowley says absently. “Funny. Yeah.”


Sunday, November 11, 1990

London


Crowley and Aziraphale sit in the same pew, with a good deal of space between the two of them, so as not to appear suspicious. Afterwards, much to their chagrin, Gabriel catches them in the lobby.

“Mr. Crowley,” he says, feigning a polite tone. “I haven’t seen you come in the past few weeks! Not making very good on that promise you gave to me to keep coming in, are you?”

Crowley blinks at him. “Sorry. I’ve been going to church with my mum. She just got back from a trip. She’s been diagnosed with terminal lung cancer, so I’ve been trying to spend more time with her.”

Gabriel looks as though Crowley has just punched him in the face. “I am so sorry to hear that.”

“I’m sure,” Crowley says tightly. “Now if you’ll excuse us—”

“Where are you off to, so quickly?” Gabriel asks. “Seems like you’re in a rush to be leaving. Something you’re trying to avoid?”

“Yes. You ,” Aziraphale says flatly; he grabs Crowley by his wrist and tugs him towards the door. Crowley eagerly follows, turning to wave smugly at Gabriel over his shoulder. 

“Quite bold of you,” Crowley comments as they make their way to his car; Aziraphale still hasn’t let go of his wrist.

“I’m getting rather tired of him, admittedly,” Aziraphale huffs.

“I’ve been tired of him since day one,” Crowley shrugs. “I’m glad to see you’re catching up.”

Aziraphale lets go of his wrist when they arrive at the car. “Perhaps next weekend I could join you in Tadfield.”

The glimmer of a good mood Crowley was retaining washes out of him; he tries not to let it show. “Yeah. Maybe.”


Friday, November 16, 1990

Tadfield


“Anthony,” Rose calls from the back door. “It’s cold.”

“I know!” Crowley calls back.

“What could possibly need tending this time of year?” Rose asks.

“I’m just— fixing stuff!” Crowley insists. “I’ll be in in a minute!”

“Your Raynaud’s—!”

“I’ll live, mum!” Crowley snaps back, even though his fingers are starting to hurt. 

He comes back inside when he can’t stand the pain any longer, laying down face down on the couch in an attempt to warm himself up.

“I told you,” Rose says hoarsely from the kitchen. “Do you want tea?”

“Ngk,” Crowley says.


Saturday, November 17, 1990

Tadfield 


“Anthony,” Rose says, obviously annoyed. “That’s the third time you’re going out today—”

“I just remembered something—” Crowley tries to protest, unlocking the back door.

“Leave it!” Rose insists. “The sun’s going down! It’s getting chilly! You’re going to catch your death out there.”

Crowley, frustrated, locks the door back and tosses himself back down on the sofa. Rose purses her lips at him. “Someone’s cranky.”

“I’m stressed,” Crowley says flatly.

“You’re always stressed,” Rose says. “You really ought to learn how to manage that, Anthony, because you’ve only gotten worse as you’ve gotten older. You should be getting better, learning how to actually manage it instead of letting it get worse and worse!”

“I don’t really want a lecture right now, mum,” Crowley snaps.

Rose sighs. “Well, you could at least tell me what you’re stressed about.”

Crowley grits his teeth. “You wouldn’t get it.”

She frowns at him. “You’re judging me,” she says. “You don’t know everything about me, Anthony. I might have gone through the exact same thing.

Crowley laughs bitterly. “I can assure you— you didn’t.”

“You don’t know me,” Rose says. “I have been through a lot of things in my life, Anthony, especially when it comes to you. I have dealt with a lot—”

Dealt, ” Crowley echoes, feeling like his stomach has just folded in on itself. “Excellent word choice, mum. Really. You’ve dealt with me. Lovely.”

“Well, it hasn’t always been easy!” Rose insists. “I’ve struggled—!”

Crowley pushes himself off the couch. “I’m not having this conversation again ,” he snaps. “I’m going to bed.”

“It’s hardly evening, Anthony!” Rose calls after him, but he’s already shut the door.


Sunday, November 18, 1990

Tadfield


Crowley prays for the ability to come out to Rose before he runs out of time.


Friday, November 23, 1990

London


“You have quite the collection, I must say,” Aziraphale says, rifling through Crowley’s bin of VHS tapes. “I don’t have nearly as many. Then again I don’t watch much television.”

“I like how you call it television like someone from the fifties,” Crowley says, setting two glasses of wine down on the table. 

“Well, what would you like me to call it?” Aziraphale teases. He pulls a tape out of the bin and peers at it; unlike many of the others, it’s only labeled in Sharpie with Crowley’s messy handwriting. “What’s this?”

Crowley recognizes the tape immediately and scrambles. “Oh, that’s— er— that’s— nothing— that’s nothing. S’boring. You wouldn’t like it.”

Aziraphale gives him an odd look, then reads the label aloud. “Season One, Episode One— The Engagement.” 

He looks curiously at Cowley. “What show is this?”

Crowley pointedly looks away from him. “Dunno what you mean.”

Aziraphale sets it down next to his foot and fishes out the tape that had been residing next to it. “Season One, Episode Two— Guess Who’s Coming to the Wedding?” 

He sets that one down on top of the first. “You’d best tell me what these are about, otherwise I’m just going to figure it out myself.”

“They’re nothing,” Crowley insists, which is obviously a lie. “Aziraphale, it’s— angel, let’s just watch a movie or something.”

“Don’t try to change the subject,” Aziraphale teases, pulling a third tape out. “Season One, Episode Three— Rose the Prude.”

He gives Crowley a very odd look; Crowley blushes and looks away.

Aziraphale sets the tape down. “Anthony, is this your very clever way of hiding your porn?”

Crowley blushes so hard he fears he’s going to pass out for a moment. “No!” he exclaims, mortified. “I don’t— I do not watch porn! I don’t— I don’t even look at porn! It’s not porn!”

“Then what on Earth is it?” Aziraphale asks, endlessly intrigued.

“It’s— nothing!” Crowley insists.

“That’s not true,” Aziraphale says, clearly endeared. He pulls a fourth tape out. “Season One, Episode Five— The Triangle.” 

He looks up at Crowley. “No episode four?”

Crowley bites his tongue to keep himself from saying haven’t had the time to tape it. Instead he just shrugs.

Aziraphale fishes a fifth tape out. “Season One, Episode Six— On Golden Girls.”

He lowers the tape and looks at Crowley excitedly. “Darling, do you tape The Golden Girls?!”

“They’re not mine!” Crowley insists frantically, the blush refusing to leave his face. “They— they belong to my mum!”

“They belong to your mum,” Aziraphale echoes, his tone smug. “I thought you said your mum doesn’t like coming to London. Why do you have them if she’s never here?”

“I’m holding them for her,” Crowley says immediately. “Because she was out of the country.”

Aziraphale raises his eyebrows. “Your mum asked you to keep her Golden Girls VHS tapes while she was out of the country? As though if someone broke into her home these would be the first thing they would go for?”

Crowley wants to dissolve into the couch. “Yes.”

Aziraphale smiles at him, bewildered. “Then why are they at the bottom of the bin?” he asks. “Why are they all labeled in your handwriting?”

Crowley doesn’t answer, just blushes harder. 

“Anthony,” Aziraphale coos, resting his chin on his hand. “Sweetheart, do you watch The Golden Girls ?”

Crowley sinks down on the couch until he’s bent at an awkward angle, grabs a pillow, and uses it to cover his face in shame.


Saturday, November 24, 1990

Soho, London


“I have to say,” Crowley says, taking a sip of his wine. “You really didn’t peg me as the type of person who owns a fake tree.”

“Is there a type of person?” Aziraphale asks; he’s sat on the floor in the corner of the bookshop pulling pieces of a fake Christmas tree out of a box. It’s very late— past midnight— and the two are still in the shop, a little more than tipsy, still attempting to finish putting up Christmas decorations.

“Well, yeah, there’s like—” Crowley stutters; he sets his wine glass down on a bookshelf and tosses himself down on the floor next to Aziraphale, making his knees crackle loudly. “There’s like— people who have fake trees and people who have real trees.”

“And are people who have fake trees inf— infe— less good?” Aziraphale asks, stumbling through his words.

“Nah,” Crowley says. “My mum hass a fake tree. Had it for yearss.”

Aziraphale blinks owlishly at him. “What was that ?”

“What wass what?” Crowley asks, then seems to catch onto how he sounds and blushes rather fiercely. “Oh— er— I mean— ss ’nothing.”

“S’something,” Aziraphale insists. “Your voice—”

“Dunno what you mean,” Crowley says, sitting up and taking to rummaging through the box sitting next to him in an attempt to avoid the subject.

“Yes you do, it’s—” Aziraphale struggles to find the right words for a moment. “It’s like a hiss. It’s like you’re hissing.”

“I do not hisss,” Crowley says, in an admittedly very sibilant tone of voice. He’s about to continue insisting that he does not hiss, when he spots something in the box and adopts an expression that’s halfway between shocked and smug. He pulls a fake mistletoe branch out and holds it up. “Do my eyess de— decceive me, or is thiss misstletoe?”

“Do my— ears deceive me?” Aziraphale stutters. “Or are you hissing?”

“I have a lissp,” Crowley finally concedes. He holds the mistletoe up in a manner to better display it. “Did you know misstletoe is a pa— pari— parassite ?”

“Really?” Aziraphale says, and Crowley nods. “Do you know why we kiss under the mistletoe?”

“No, why?” Crowley asks, leaning forward, intrigued.

“Oh, I have no idea,” Aziraphale says. “I was asking you.”

“Oh,” Crowley says, slightly disappointed. 

“Let’s— make up our own reason,” Aziraphale suggests; he reaches out to take the mistletoe from Crowley. It takes him a few tries, but he finally grabs it. “We kiss under the mistletoe because— er…”

They both sit pondering for a long moment. 

Becausse it’ss fun?” Crowley suggests.

“Maybe,” Aziraphale shrugs.

Crowley scoots closer to him, making a vague attempt at being alluring but failing largely due to being a little too drunk. “Becausse it’ss romantic?”

Aziraphale giggles. “I suppose— I wouldn’t— wouldn’t know. Never kissed anyone.”

“You’ve kisssed me,” Crowley points out.

“Under the mistletoe,” Aziraphale amends. “Never kissed anyone— under the mistletoe.”

Crowley takes the bush out of his hand and holds it above them. “Oh, look…”

Aziraphale laughs. “You are— rid—ri— you’re silly.”

It’ss tradition, angel,” Crowley teases.

Aziraphale thinks for a moment, looking at him affectionately. “Peace, I will stop your mouth.”

Crowley blinks. “Oooh, I’m Aziraphale, I quote Sh— I— quote Shakes— Shakesspeare when I’m— ine— inib— when I’m drunk…!”

They both dissolve into laughter, Crowley lowering the mistletoe.

Aziraphale sniffs. “Oh, you took it down,” he realizes.

“My arm wass getting tired,” Crowley admits. “Are you sstill inter— in— inch— sstop my mouth?”

Aziraphale grins, his cheeks flushing. “ Now who’s quoting Shakespeare?”

“You’re a prat,” Crowley says, in an attempt to sound annoyed, but he’s giggling as he says it; he swats Aziraphale with the mistletoe. 

Aziraphale grabs his wrist and pulls him forward; the kiss is messy and incredibly uncoordinated, but in the moment they both think it’s the loveliest thing in the world.


Sunday, November 25, 1990

London


Crowley finds himself going through the motions at church the next morning; he doesn’t listen to the service in the slightest and only hums along when it comes time to sing. If asked, he would say it’s his ever-growing detachment from the church as an institution, but in reality it’s mostly due to his horrible hangover and the crick in his neck that had come of sleeping on the couch in the back room of the shop. 

Aziraphale, standing a few paces away from Crowley, is in a similar state, for similar reasons, sans crick in his neck. 

Neither of them feel very good; after mass, they’re likely to each go back home and fall back asleep. For the time being, though, they stand in the pews, and each time they think of the previous night— consisting of wine and kisses and mistletoe and poorly put together Christmas trees— they can’t help but smile.


Friday, November 30, 1990

Soho, London


“Anthony?” Aziraphale inquires gently, catching his attention. “Dear boy, I was wondering if, perhaps… well, I wonder if— if I might come down to Tadfield with you this weekend.”

Crowley deflates, his good mood leaving him swiftly. “Oh,” he says, avoiding his gaze. “Er— well— I haven’t really… had that conversation with my mum yet.”

“Oh,” Aziraphale says, sitting back. “Well, that’s— fine.”

There’s a moment of silence.

“I don’t mean to sound like I’m rushing you,” Aziraphale says, and Crowley winces, “but when are you planning on having that conversation?”

Crowley hesitates, still not looking at him. “Dunno.”

“Anthony,” Aziraphale says softly.

“I’m waiting for the right time,” Crowley insists, although he knows it’s a weak excuse.

“When was the right time… the first time you came out?” Aziraphale asks slowly.

Crowley swallows. “The wrong time,” he says. “She didn’t take it well.”

There’s a heavy silence between them.

“I don’t mean that she—” Crowley tries to say, but he gets choked up; he waits for a moment, then tries again. “She didn’t get mad at me. She didn’t yell, or kick me out, or anything. She just… kept telling me I was wrong.”

He glances at Aziraphale, then looks away. “I’m sorry. I shouldn’t be telling you this, it’s— heavy.”

“No, it’s okay,” Aziraphale says softly. “Tell me.”

Crowley is quiet for a long time. “She just kept telling me she knew me better.”

He pauses. “She kept telling me she raised me and she knew me and that I’m not trans because she would know if I was trans. As if I don’t know myself.”

He sits up. “It’s like— she’s okay with queer people when she doesn’t have to think about them. Like if we can just be an abstract concept that she never has to deal with, then it’s fine. But when I came out and started transitioning, suddenly it was something she had to think about all the time and she hated it. She’d never say it to my face, but it’s so obvious. She made everything so weird; she was so relieved when I moved to London, because when she doesn’t have to look at me she doesn’t have to think about it. I practically had to beg her to call me when I was away. And she always kept saying you know I love you, but that doesn’t fucking mean anything when she won’t even look me in the eye.”

He turns abruptly to look at Aziraphale. “Do you know where I found the time to read War and Peace ? And Anna Karenina ? And— Great Expectations and all that shit? I read them when I was recovering from top surgery, by myself, because I mentioned to my mum that I was having surgery, and she said oh, don’t tell me about that. I took the fucking bus home from the hospital, Aziraphale!”

He dissolves into tears, and Aziraphale slides across the couch to sit closer to him, to hold his hand. Crowley takes a deep, shuddering breath and continues. “It took us twelve years to get to where we are now, and we’re not even back to how we were before. She uses my name, and— and my pronouns and she calls me her son, but she won’t fucking touch me. And when I tell her I’m gay we won’t have another twelve years for it to stop being weird. We might not even have another twelve months. And I just— don’t— know if I can handle her treating me like that in the last— before she—”

He can’t bring himself to say it; instead, he leans on Aziraphale’s shoulder and cries until he runs out of tears. Aziraphale wraps his arms around him, realizing for the first time that he’s quite frail. He holds him until his sobs give way to quiet, even breaths. 

“Anthony?” he finally asks, very softly.

Crowley tilts his head to look up at him; his eyes are puffy and red, his cheeks stained with dried tears. “Yes, angel?”

“May I offer you a piece of advice?” Aziraphale asks.

Crowley nods, and Aziraphale can’t help himself; he brushes Crowley’s hair out of his face and presses a kiss to his forehead. He speaks in a hushed voice. “When my mum was sick, I figured it would be best if I kept my secrets to myself. I didn’t want to upset her when there was such little time left.”

Tentatively, he touches Crowley’s chin, slowly tilting his head to make him look at him. 

“I regret not telling her,” he whispers. “A prayer doesn’t feel the same. Now that she’s gone— all these years later, I still feel like I’m keeping secrets.”

Crowley blinks; it sends two neat trails of tears spilling down his cheeks. “I’m just— scared. She knows I’m not telling her something, but I can’t imagine she has any idea what it is. I don’t know when the best time is.”

Aziraphale sighs. “The best time, it would seem, was twelve years ago. But the second best time is now.”

Chapter Text

Saturday, December 1, 1990

Tadfield


Cowley and Rose put the Christmas tree up. They spend most of the day putting it together and decorating it, and briefly Crowley can forget about anything that’s bothering him and just let himself enjoy getting ready for Christmas with his mum. 

Rose is currently standing on the other side of the room examining the tree. She looks a bit worse for wear, but she manages. “Can you move the glass bell ornament down a bit?”

Crowley does as she asks. “Better?”

“Much,” she says with a weak smile. “I’m going to put the kettle on.”

“Okay,” Crowley says.

She leaves him alone to look at the tree; he plays with some of the ornaments, before he allows a surge of confidence to overtake him.

“Hey, mum?” he calls, with meaning.

“Hm?” Rose says from the kitchen.

Crowley immediately deflates. “Er— do you want me to put the lights up outside?”

“You can,” Rose says absently. “Getting late now, though. Might be better to do tomorrow.”

“Right,” Crowley says quietly. “Tomorrow.”

Crowley finds three spots in the conversation where he could take the reins and come out; he fails to utilize any of them, because he hesitates for too long, and each time Rose ends up changing the subject. 

He goes to bed stressed; around eleven o’clock, he literally worries himself sick and ends up in the bathroom, throwing up. If Rose hears him, she doesn’t come to check on him.


Sunday, December 2, 1990

Tadfield


Crowley stays in bed for as long as he can to avoid having to face Rose, pretending to sleep through her attempts to wake him for church. When he finally comes out into the living room, she’s sitting with her Bible in her chair, dressed and back from the service, an empty mug of tea on the coffee table.

“About time,” she says, annoyed. “I thought you were going to sleep all day.”

“Ngk,” Crowley says; he grabs her mug and takes it to the sink, distinctly wishing he could have back the sense of calmness he’d been enveloped in only yesterday. 

Crowley spends well into the afternoon putting lights up, as much as it starts to hurt, considering the temperature and the fact that it involves a lot of intricate work with his hands. He doesn’t want to go back inside, though; he feels like if he has to see Rose, he’ll die. He wonders if that’s how she feels about him.

When he finishes with the lights, he loiters in the garden until he feels like his fingers are going to fall off. He comes back inside through the back door, startling Rose.

“Were you in the garden?” she asks; he nods. “I thought you were putting lights up.”

“I was,” Crowley says. “Finished. Started tending the garden.”

“Anthony, it’s freezing,” Rose says. “Your hands must be—”

“My hands are fine, mum,” Crowley snaps. 

There’s a heavy pause.

“I’m going to make tea,” Crowley says quietly, slipping into the kitchen.

Rose sighs, coughs, then stands to follow him. “Anthony, there’s something I wanted to talk to you about.”

Crowley’s blood turns to ice in his veins. He freezes in his tracks. “What?”

“Oh, quit acting like that,” Rose says, padding past him. “You act like I’m going to beat you. Make your tea, let’s have a chat.”

“I don’t want tea,” Crowley says, in a rather grave tone of voice. “What is it?”

Rose sighs, sitting down at the table. “To be quite frank, Anthony, I’m worried about you.”

Crowley blinks. “Worried about me ?” he asks. “Why— why are you worried about me ?”

“You’re thirty, Anthony,” she says, as though that explains everything.

Crowley blinks at her. “Yes? I’m thirty?”

She pinches the bridge of her nose. “The thing, Anthony, is I want you to have a family when I’m not here.”

Crowley deflates, grabbing onto the chair in front of him at the table for support. Rose continues. “As it stands, you’ve never brought home a girl. Have you ever even been in a serious relationship with a woman?”

Crowley swallows. “No.”

Rose shakes her head. “I want you to have a family to fall back on once I’m gone. I want to see you happy with someone you can have a family with. And I know having children will probably be… difficult… for you. I don’t really want to know the specifics about how you’re planning to go about that, but I’m sure—”

“I don’t want kids,” Crowley says abruptly, before he can stop himself.

Rose falters, looking up at him. She blinks. “What?”

He doesn’t say anything.

“Why?” she insists.

“I just don’t,” he says, because he can’t even begin to answer the question properly. Not to her.

She takes a breath, clearly bothered. “Well, frankly that’s— that’s very odd Anthony. Are you certain you’ve thought your stance on this through? Because your father and I went through a lot trying to have children—”

Crowley’s grip on the chair tightens. He tries not to let his frustration show. He fails.

“— we tried for years, Anthony. I went to seven different doctors who all told me I would never be able to have children. The fact that I was ever able to have you was a miracle. Now—”

Crowley would rather sink straight into the floor and die than have to listen to another word of her lecture, but he can’t peel himself away.

“— I can understand not wanting to have kids biologically. But there are so many children in the foster care system who could use a loving home—”

Crowley wants to shed his skin and disappear, never to be seen or heard from again. 

“— and besides, Anthony, what if the woman you end up marrying wants children!? What will you tell her!? Most women—”

“I’m gay.”

“— are looking for—”

Rose chokes on the rest of her sentence. She looks up at Crowley, who looks as though he’s about to burst into tears, staring straight ahead rather than looking at her. 

“What?” she asks.

“You heard what I said,” Crowley says, choked up. “Please don’t make me say it again.”

There’s a long and heavy pause. Finally, he braves a glance at her, and he hates that he can see her question in her eyes: why? Why do you have to be? Why do you have to make everything complicated? Why do you have to be like this? Why couldn’t you have just been a daughter? Why can’t you just marry a nice man and be his nice wife? 

Because it doesn’t work like that, Crowley wants to scream as loudly as he can. Because I am who I am and I love who I am. 

Rose is looking increasingly distraught. “Are— you— are you… sick?”

“No,” Crowley says immediately. “No, I’m not— I’ve never even had sex, mum, I’m not— no. No .”

Rose sits in silence for a long moment. “Why didn’t you say something sooner?”

Crowley grits his teeth. “Because now you’re going to make everything weird.” 

Rose looks at him, offended. “What’s that supposed to mean?”

“It means I can count the times you’ve touched me since I came out!” Crowley shouts, the tears finally spilling. “It means we both pretend that I’m not queer! It means you hate talking about it and you hate acknowledging it and you hate having to look at me because you don’t want to think about the person I actually am!”

“That is not true!” Rose says angrily. “What an awful— judgmental thing to say! I love you, Anthony! How horrible must you think I am to insinuate that I would ever love you any less just because—!”

“It doesn’t matter how much you love me!” Crowley insists through his tears. “How does it matter how much you say you love me when you won’t touch me?! Before you got sick, I had to beg you to call me, to let me see you, to let me do anything with you. I went through surgery alone. Twice! I took the bus home after I got top surgery! I sat in the hospital completely by myself after I had my hysterectomy. You didn’t even know I had a hysterectomy!”

Rose blinks at him. “You never told me you were having a hysterectomy.”

“Because when I told you about my top surgery, you told me you didn’t want to know about it!” Crowley shouts. “I didn’t want to tell you I was gay because it’s just going to add another layer on top of the way you treat me now! Because you don’t want to know anything about me, really, you just want to look away and pretend I’m not queer! Which is too bad! Because I am! I’m trans and I’m gay and I take testosterone and I fancy Freddie Mercury and I have a boyfriend! And it doesn’t matter how much you try to look away from me or through me or around me— those things are a part of me and I don’t care if you don’t love them because I do.” 

Crowley feels like a child turning away from the table and storming off to his room. Rose calls after him, but he doesn’t listen, shutting the door behind him and electing to crawl into bed— his bed— and attempt to shut it out with sleep.

It doesn’t work; instead of sleeping, he cries, turning his face into the pillow and feeling like he’s fifteen years old. 

When he stops crying, he still doesn’t sleep, laying awake and turning thoughts over in his mind until he finally feels like he can’t think about anything but static. He lays in bed and watches the sun set through the blinds. The stars on the ceiling slowly begin to glow in the dark. It makes him feel calmer.

When it’s almost completely dark outside, Rose knocks on the door. Crowley tenses back up, holding his breath.

“Anthony?” Rose asks softly. “Can I please come in?”

Crowley doesn’t respond.

“I made you tea,” Rose adds. “It’s peppermint.”

Crowley hesitates. “Ngk.”

“That’s… not really a yes or a no,” Rose says slowly. “Can I please come in?”

Crowley keeps his back to the door, picking at his nails. “Fine.”

The door opens slowly, and Crowley listens to Rose pad into the room without turning around to look at her. 

“You need to sit up so you can drink the tea,” she tells him quietly.

“Ngk,” Crowley says.

Rose sets the mug down on the nightstand and sits down on the edge of the bed. “I want to apologize.”

“Ngk,” Crowley says.

“Please stop making that noise,” Rose says, trying not to let her annoyance get the best of her. “I’m— sorry, Anthony. I didn’t realize that trying to avoid the subject was having such an effect on you. I didn’t realize it was making you so upset.”

She pauses. “If— I’d known— I certainly wouldn’t have— I mean— if you had said something to me— about any of it, I would have— I would have tried to do better. I want to do better. I don’t want you to hear hollow words when I tell you I love you, I want you to know I mean it. I didn’t… realize you were going through so much alone. I didn’t realize how much I was missing by just… dismissing everything as your anxiety.”

She stops, seeming to wait for him to respond. He doesn’t.

She’s quiet for a long time. She looks mournful.

“I didn’t even notice,” she says quietly.

Crowley takes the bait. “Didn’t notice what?”

“That I wasn’t touching you,” Rose mutters. “That I wasn’t— holding you the way a mother should hold her child.”

She glances at him. “You said you could count the instances.”

“I can,” Crowley says, his tone bitter. “Six. Most recently at Easter.”

Rose blinks, trying to process this. “Six times in twelve years.”

“Ngk,” Crowley says.

“I’m a bad mum,” Rose admits.

Crowley bites the inside of his cheek. “Sometimes.”

She nods. “You went through surgery alone.”

“Twice,” Crowley reminds her.

“Twice,” she amends.

“A hysterectomy and top surgery.”

She’s quiet for a moment. “What’s—?”

“To make my chest flat.”

“Ah,” Rose says. “Yes, I— think I remember you telling me that.”

There’s a long moment of silence.

“So…” Rose says. “You’re interested in… Freddie Mercury?”

“Please don’t try to talk to me about boys,” Crowley says immediately.

“Well, I’ve met him,” Rose says, “and he’s very handsome, so it’s… nice to know you have good taste.”

“Ngk,” Crowley says.

Rose drums her fingers on the bed. “Does… your boyfriend look anything like him?”

Crowley laughs.


Friday, December 7, 1990

Twelfth Session

London


“Anthony,” Anathema says, very seriously. “Seduce it.”

“Please don’t seduce it,” Newt says.

“Anthony,” Anathema says again. “I’ve never been more serious about anything in my life. Please seduce it.”

“Please do not seduce the boss I set up for you,” Newt says miserably. “It’s a dragon, Anthony. Please do not seduce a dragon.”

“Anthony, I know for a fact Newt was betting on you seducing this dragon,” Anathema says. “Seduce it.”

Crowley can’t keep the smile off his face. He glances at Aziraphale. “I dunno, angel. What do you think?”

Aziraphale smiles rather coyly. “I think you should seduce it.”

Crowley mirrors his smile. “I roll to seduce the dragon.”

Crowley rolls the dice.

“You’ve got to be fucking kidding me,” Newt says, sitting back. “Okay— fine— you’re right, I planned for this, but I wasn’t expecting you to roll a fucking nat-twenty.”

“I’m just that sexy, I guess,” Crowley says, taking a sip of his tea. Anathema rolls her eyes.

“Okay, fine,” Newt says. “You seduce the dragon. She—”

“Ngk,” Crowley says.

“—fine, he is so thoroughly enamored with you, he abducts you from your party and brings you back to his lair, where you fervently make love until you collapse from exhaustion.”

“I’m into it,” Crowley says.

“While fucking the dragon—”

“Oh?” Crowley asks; he wasn’t expecting him to continue.

“— you take three d-eight piercing damage.”

“From what?!” Crowley exclaims.

Newt gives him a look.

“Okay, fine,” Crowley says, sitting back.

“In the morning, he refuses to allow you to return to your party, vowing to keep you as a lover for the rest of time. Or until you die,” Newt declares.

There’s a pause.

“Is the sex good at least?” Crowley asks.

“Yeah, sure,” Newt says flatly. “Until the piercing damage kills you.”

“A worthy death,” Crowley concedes.

“Question,” Aziraphale says tentatively. “Should I feel jealous of this dragon, yes or no?”

“Yes, absolutely,” Anathema says. “He railed your man so hard he killed him.”

“Well,” Aziraphale says. “I promise I would never do that to you.”

Anathema cackles while Crowley blushes so hard it renders him speechless.

“Well, I would just like to say,” Anathema declares, once Newt has wrapped the rest of the campaign up with a neat little bow, “this is the first campaign we’ve ever finished within the time frame Newt thought would work best, and not a single person flaked on a session.”

She gives Crowley a look; he flips her off.

“Thank you for inviting me to join your party,” Aziraphale says politely. “It’s very fun to play.”

“Petition to get thoroughly smashed now that we have no obligations?” Anathema suggests.

“I would sign that petition,” Crowley says apologetically. “But unfortunately we have to leave in the morning.”

“Oh?” Anathema asks, intrigued. “Where to?”

“Tadfield,” Aziraphale tells her.

Her eyes go wide. “Are you meeting his mum?!”

“He is,” Crowley says awkwardly. “And we have to leave early in the morning, and it’s already late, so I’d best be off.”

She gives him an odd look. Then she says, “Well, then, we can get thoroughly smashed next weekend for my birthday.”

“Ah, yes, the annual Anathema forces me to go to a nightclub,” Crowley says flatly.

“I never used to have to force you,” Anathema says. She looks at Aziraphale. “He used to willingly go out with me on Friday nights and dance with me, has he ever told you that?”

“He hasn’t,” Aziraphale says, smiling slightly.

“Anthony, why haven’t you taken your boyfriend dancing yet?” Newt asks.

“Because I’m thirty and my knees hate me now,” Crowley says. “And nightclubs aren’t my ideal date spot.”

“I’ve never been to a nightclub,” Aziraphale admits.

“You live in Soho and you’ve never been to a nightclub?!” Anathema exclaims. “What the fuck is wrong with you?!”

“There’s nothing wrong with him!” Crowley insists. “It’s probably just not his scene. It’s barely mine.”

“That’s not true,” Anathema tells Aziraphale. “They play a disco song and he goes absolutely nuts.”

“Disco music is good,” Crowley insists. “But like I said, my knees hate me.”

“Well, they’ll really be hating you next weekend, because we’re going out,” Anathema declares.

Crowley groans, but he doesn’t protest. Newt finishes gathering his things and Crowley gives Aziraphale a kiss goodnight before leaving with Anathema and Newt. Once they’re out on the sidewalk, Anathema whacks Crowley’s arm.

“Ow!” he says.

“You’re an idiot!” she exclaims.

“What did I do?!” Crowley asks, confused.

“You’re driving somewhere with him early tomorrow morning, you were both together tonight, and you didn’t think it a possibility to spend the night together?” Anathema asks.

“We’re not having sex!” Crowley insists, embarrassed. 

“She’s not saying have sex,” Newt points out cordially. “She’s saying, you know, sleep in the same bed.”

“Cuddle,” Anathema says, exasperated. “It’s like I have to teach you how to do this.”

“You don’t have to teach me anything,” Crowley says, annoyed. “We’re going slow.”

“You’re taking him to meet your mum tomorrow morning,” Anathema says.

“Because—!” Crowley exclaims, but then he can’t bring himself to say it. “You know why that’s on an accelerated time table, Anathema.”

She softens, but only slightly. “I’m just saying: sleep with him.”

Crowley opens his mouth to protest, but Anathema cuts him off. “You know I don’t mean it like that! Sleep in the same bed as him. Spoon, or something. Have you ever even slept in a bed with someone else?”

Crowley’s lack of an answer is his answer.

“You’re a dork!” Anathema declares. “Night, Anthony.”

“Night, Anthony,” Newt echoes, following Anathema to his car.

Crowley considers turning around and knocking on the bookshop door, suggesting that they do actually spend the night together (in a very PG-13 manner), but however much confidence that would need to be achieved, Crowley doesn’t have, so he walks to his car instead.


Saturday, December 8, 1990

Immaculate Conception

Tadfield


The drive to Tadfield seems to take far less time than it normally does, despite the fact that both Aziraphale and Crowley secretly want it to last all day. Instead, they end up parked outside Rose’s house, sitting in silence, waiting to see who’s going to say something first.

“Are you nervous?” Crowley asks quietly.

“Yeah,” Aziraphale says immediately. He looks at Crowley, attempting a smile. “Are you?”

“No,” Crowley lies, because he doesn’t want to make him any more anxious.

“That’s not true,” Aziraphale says, smiling wider. “You’re always nervous.”

Crowley smiles tightly. He takes Aziraphale’s hand and kisses his knuckles, then lets his hand go. 

“She’s nice,” he promises. “She’s just…”

He can’t find the proper word for it, so instead he just offers Aziraphale a shrug and a sympathetic smile. Aziraphale huffs out a laugh. “I find it very telling how I understand exactly what you mean without you having to say anything.”

“That’s the gay experience,” Crowley sighs.

Crowley isn’t entirely certain whether he should just let himself in or knock on the door. He ends up not having to make a choice, though, because Rose opens the door before he can do either.

“I thought you were just going to sit in the car forever,” she says to him, and then her eyes land on Aziraphale and she hesitates.

“Well,” she says. “You’re certainly no Freddie Mercury.”

“Mum,” Crowley hisses.

“I meant that in a complimentary way!” Rose insists.

“How could that possibly be taken as a compliment?!” Crowley asks.

“I just meant that, after Anthony explained his fixation with Freddie Mercury to me, you’re not what I was expecting,” Rose says to Aziraphale. “But I don’t mean that in a bad way! You look very… warm.”

Aziraphale smiles nervously. “Thank you?”

“You’re welcome,” Rose says. “Now come inside. You’re dating a man with a blood vessel disorder, after all— you can’t just stand around in the cold.”


Sunday, December 9, 1990

Tadfield


Crowley and Aziraphale sit together, closer than they ever do in London. It’s nice, they each think silently to themselves, to be close and not feel like every single person in the church is staring at them. 


Friday, December 14, 1990

Tadfield


“What does Aziraphale do for Christmas?”

“Huh?” Crowley asks; he lets his eyes stray from the road for a moment, glancing at her.

“Does he celebrate with family?” Rose asks.

“Oh, er,” Crowley says, his gaze falling back on the road. “No. Er, his parents are both dead.”

“Oh,” Rose says, sympathetic. “He doesn’t have any siblings?”

“I don’t… think so,” Crowley says slowly. “I’d have to ask, honestly.”

“Well, what does he do for Christmas?” Rose asks again.

“I dunno, I’ve never asked him about it,” Crowley admits. “He definitely celebrates, though. I helped him decorate his shop.” He neglects to include that most of said decoration attempts were made while they were both in a drunken stupor. 

“Well, I’m admittedly not fond of the idea of him celebrating alone,” Rose says. “Perhaps you should invite him down.”

Crowley nearly chokes on his own spit. “Mum, we’ve been dating for two months!”

“And he’s already met me, who else is there to meet?” Rose asks. “Just invite him if he’s not doing anything. I’m sure it’s no fun spending Christmas alone.”

“I don’t even know if he does spend Christmas alone,” Crowley insists.

“So ask!” Rose says. “There’s no harm in asking. I’d hate to imagine him celebrating all by himself.”

“Okay,” Crowley says quietly. 


Saturday, December 15, 1990

Anathema’s Birthday

London


The sign on the door of the bookshop says it’s closed, but the door is unlocked, so Crowley lets himself in. He finds Aziraphale in the back room, leaned over his desk, fixated on some sort of paperwork. 

Crowley leans against the doorframe, in a vague attempt to look suave, and says, “Hey.”

Aziraphale jumps, not having heard him come in. He turns around in his chair to look at him, startled, and nearly drops his pen when he lays eyes on him. 

“Oh, wow,” he says, before he can stop himself, and then he and Crowley are both blushing.

“What?” Crowley asks, fighting the urge to shrink in on himself.

“Nothing!” Aziraphale immediately exclaims. “It’s just—” — you normally wear well fitting trousers, but those are really well fitting trousers— “— you look nice, is all, my dear.”

He hesitates, looking Crowley over again. “You look… very nice.”

“Oh,” Crowley says, managing to blush even harder. “Er— thank you.”

They both simmer in silence for a moment.

“So why’d you ask me to come over early?” Crowley asks.

“Oh—!” Aziraphale says; he stands from his desk abruptly. “Well, clearly you— er— well I think it’s quite obvious between the two of us who has the, er, superior sense of fashion—”

Crowley preens a tad bit.

“— and I was thinking perhaps you could— well, see, I’ve never been to a nightclub before, and I certainly don’t know how to dress for the occasion, so I was wondering if you could, er, give me some advice in that realm.”

Crowley blinks. “Er— y— er— yeah. I can— er— yeah. Yeah. Sure. Whatever you want, angel.”

Aziraphale offers him a shy smile. “I don’t believe I’ve ever invited you upstairs, have I?”

Crowley’s eyes flicker to the staircase that leads somewhere he’s never seen, tucked in the corner of the backroom like it’s forbidden. “I don’t believe you have, no.”

“Well, then,” Aziraphale says, drifting towards the staircase. “Would you, er, like to come up to my flat?”

Crowley clears his throat awkwardly, straightening up. “Lead the way, angel.”

Aziraphale’s flat is cozy, if not somewhat cluttered; practically the polar opposite of Crowley’s flat, but he finds himself not minding it very much. In fact, he senses himself enjoying it as he follows Aziraphale to his room. His heart begins to hammer in his chest as he realizes he’s going to be stepping into Aziraphale’s bedroom; where he sleeps and dresses in the morning and maybe even possibly—

Crowley grabs that thought by the collar and does his best to fling it out of his brain. It returns to him like a boomerang and leaves him feeling vaguely sweaty.

It feels very odd standing in Aziraphale’s room; Crowley can’t figure out if it’s the boyfriend thing, or because he was never invited to sleepovers as a child.

“Admittedly, I don’t really know where to start,” Aziraphale says, yanking Crowley out of his daze.

“Oh, er,” Crowley stutters. “Have you, er… got any jeans?”

“Jeans?” Aziraphale asks, and Crowley nods. “I… might. Although if I do, I likely haven’t worn them in a very long time…”

While he rummages in his closet for his unconfirmed pair of jeans, Crowley makes a bold move and sits down on the edge of his bed. It’s very comfortable. He crosses his legs at his ankles and tries not the fidget while he waits.

“Ah!” Aziraphale says triumphantly; it’s then followed by an, “Oh…”

“What?” Crowley asks.

Aziraphale presents a pair of dark blue jeans to him. “I’m just not entirely certain they’ll still fit…”

Crowley stands and makes his way over to him, trying to act like he doesn’t feel like his brain is vibrating. “I’m sure they’ll look just fine.”

Aziraphale makes a doubtful noise. 

“Can I pick a shirt out for you?” Crowley offers.

Aziraphale nods, stepping aside. Crowley feels slightly odd looking through his clothes; he doesn’t own very many, and he recognizes almost everything he takes a look at. Finally, he hands him a pale blue button up.

“Here,” he says, as Aziraphale takes it. “Makes your eyes, er, pop. Is I think something they say about fashion.”

“You’d be the one to know,” Aziraphale says with a smile.

Crowley sits himself back down on the edge of Aziraphale’s bed again while he changes in the bathroom. He chews on his lip and looks around the room, examining little details in an attempt to keep his mind out of the gutter. He’s not entirely certain why it’s in the gutter in the first place.*

*It’s most likely due to the dream he had last night, which he does not remember the specifics of. He does remember waking with his legs wrapped around a pillow, though. Unfortunately, he hadn’t had time to finish what he’d started, so he’d left for work without taking care of it. In hindsight, it probably would have been better to have been late; it would have saved him the trouble of being horny now.

Aziraphale opens the door to the bathroom and stands in the doorframe. “I feel very silly.”

The jeans are a bit snug, but they fit. The shirt is an equally good cut. Crowley stares at him for a long moment without saying anything, his eyes wide.

Aziraphale blushes. “I look bad, don’t I?”

“No!” Crowley says immediately. “No, no, angel, you look— you look great. Er, one small suggestion…”

He stands and crosses to him again, then pauses when he’s in front of him. “May I?”

Aziraphale blushes. “Sure.”

Crowley unbuttons his sleeves and rolls them up at a rather agonizing pace, exposing his forearms. Then, after a moment of hesitation, he unbuttons the top two buttons of his shirt. 

“Scandalous,” Aziraphale mutters; an attempt at a joke, but he’s still blushing fiercely. 

Crowley’s hands linger at the collar of his shirt. “You look sexy.”

“Oh,” Aziraphale laughs, somehow managing to blush harder. “No, I— no, I don’t think so…”

“I think so,” Crowley murmurs. He catches himself and clears his throat. “But— er— I won’t, er, say that. If you don’t want me to. If that’s too much. Too fast. I don’t— er— yeah.”

Aziraphale is quiet for a moment. “You look sexy, too.”

It takes every ounce of Crowley’s willpower not to yank him into a kiss by the collar of his shirt and pin him to the bathroom counter.

“Er— do you, er, dance? Much?” Crowley asks frantically, letting go of his shirt and taking a step back, in an attempt to prevent himself from kissing Aziraphale until neither of them can breathe.

“Oh,” Aziraphale says. “Er— I was in a play in secondary school where we had to gavotte, but I’m afraid that’s where my knowledge of dance ends.”

Crowley bites his lip in an effort to keep himself from snickering. “I’d absolutely love to see you gavotte in the middle of a nightclub.”

Aziraphale smiles sheepishly. “I’m afraid it’s been a while, so perhaps another time.”

“I’ll take you out dancing in two-to-four months when my knees are healed from tonight's excursion,” Crowley promises with a smile. “Practice in the meantime.”

Aziraphale chuckles. “Alright, I will.”

They stand across from one another for a moment.

“Aziraphale?” Crowley asks.

“Yes?” Aziraphale answers eagerly.

“Er,” Crowley hesitates, feeling silly now. “My mum said if you’re not doing anything for Christmas, you’re welcome to join us in Tadfield.”

Aziraphale’s eyes go slightly wide. Maybe even a bit misty. “I would love to.”

“Oh,” Crowley says softly, his heart fluttering in his chest. “Okay. Cool. Cool. I’ll, er, let my mum know.”

“Thank you for the invitation,” Aziraphale says earnestly.

“Jesus, I really want to kiss you right now,” Crowley says before he can stop himself.

“Please do,” Aziraphale breathes.

Crowley surges forward to kiss him as hard as he possibly can, but before he can get to the good part, there comes a sound from downstairs that sounds like somebody knocking hard near the bottom of the staircase.

“Are you two being gay up there?!” comes the sound of Anathema’s voice. “Because I want to go out! It’s fifteen after!”

Crowley places his hands awkwardly on Aziraphale’s shoulders, then smoothes the fabric out before retracting his hands. “Maybe later, then.”

“Looking forward to it,” Aziraphale says sheepishly.

Anathema seems very well pleased when they descend the staircase. She looks stunning in her dress, and both Crowley and Aziraphale tell her as much.

“Flattery won’t get you out of dancing with me,” Anathema tells Crowley as they leave the shop.

“Will buying your drinks get me out of it?” Crowley asks hopefully. 

“Not if you also want that to be your present to me,” Anathema says in a knowing tone. “Besides, I’m only having two drinks at the most. I’m drinking to get vaguely buzzed, not blackout drunk.”

“Sounds like no fun,” Crowley declares, even though he volunteered himself as the designated driver.

“Grab us a booth,” Anathema instructs Crowley when they head inside. “I want a gin and tonic and get Newt a strawberry daiquiri on the rocks.”

“Why am I to do all the work?” Crowley complains.

“Because I’m busy dancing!” Anathema exclaims. “And also you’re paying! Okay I love you! You’re next once Newt gets tired!”

She drags Newt off to dance; Crowley takes Aziraphale by the hand, and by their luck they find an empty booth. He slides into the seat next to him, leaning in close to his ear to talk above the noise. “Save this spot and I’ll be back in a minute! Do you want anything to drink?”

“No, thank you!” Aziraphale says back.

Crowley disappears and returns with the aforementioned drink orders, sliding back into the seat next to him and setting them down on the other side of the table. 

“It’s very loud!” Aziraphale comments.

“Oh,” Crowley says. “Er— yeah! It tends to be! Are you certain you don’t want a drink?”

“I’m not much for cocktails!” Aziraphale tells him. 

“Sorry there’s not much else to do besides drinking and dancing!” Crowley says apologetically.

He neglects to include that technically, there’s a third option of making out like they’re the only two people in the room, because somehow he suspects Aziraphale wouldn’t find that one very appealing.

Newt and Anathema find them after another song and a half; they slide into the booth across from them. Newt holds up his glass towards Crowley as if to say thank you, before he takes a sip; he looks very pleased about it.

Anathema downs most of her drink, then looks at Crowley with a gleeful, almost predatory expression. He sighs loudly, shifting to get out of his seat. “I won’t even argue.”

She jumps up and grabs his arm, dragging him off to the dance floor.

“You two didn’t dance for very long!” Aziraphale comments.

“I get overwhelmed!” Newt tells him. “I have to sit for a while between dancing! And I think she likes dancing with Anthony, better, anyways!”

“Is he very good?” Aziraphale asks.

“Oh, God, no! He’s atrocious!” Newt laughs. “But he can go for a while! And Anathema loves it!”

Aziraphale smiles. “You’re not at all jealous?”

“Why should I be?” Newt asks. “He’s gay! And he’s dating you! And she’s dating me! Why should I be jealous?”

Aziraphale shrugs. Newt takes a sip of his drink. “Are you jealous?”

“No!” Aziraphale says lightly, although admittedly he doesn’t despise the idea of dancing with Crowley, even if he is, supposedly, atrocious.

Newt finishes his drink slowly. He’s just finished it when Anathema and Crowley reappear at the table, looking much more exhausted and far more sweaty than they were when they left. Anathema finishes her drink off, then looks at Crowley pleadingly, making an attempt at puppy eyes.

They work, because Crowley takes her glass and disappears in the direction of the bar.

Anathema slides into the seat next to Aziraphale. “I have a question for you!” she says excitedly.

“Oh?” Aziraphale asks, intrigued.

“Is Anthony a good kisser?” she asks eagerly. “I’m dying to know!”

Aziraphale blushes hard. “I— don’t know! He’s the only person I’ve ever kissed!”

“But do you think he’s good at it?” Anathema insists. “You two have made out, right? Because I’ve always gotten a feeling he’d be a killer kisser but obviously I wouldn’t know because he’s gay and he’d never kiss me, plus I’m dating Newt, anyway! So is he good?”

“I— suppose!” Aziraphale says, flustered. “I do— enjoy kissing him, if that’s what you’re asking?”

“Like how good is he at kissing, on a scale of one to ten?” she asks.

Aziraphale hesitates. “…A ten?”

She squeals. “Why!?”

“I just enjoy kissing him!” Aziraphale insists. “He’s— just— well, I can’t really explain it!”

Anathema leans closer. “You should tell me more details when you don’t have to shout them!” she tells him. “For now, I’ll be back in a few!”

She stands back up, and Newt follows, the two of them returning to the dance floor. Aziraphale sits alone until Crowley returns with Anathema’s new drink. He sets it down in her spot and sits back down next to Aziraphale; there’s a thin sheen of sweat near his hairline. Aziraphale can’t stop thinking about kissing him.

“Don’t tell Anathema I told you this,” Aziraphale says, leaning closer to him, “but she said she’s always had a feeling you’d be a— er— killer kisser!”

Crowley blushes all the way down to his neck. “When did she say that?!”

“Just now!”

“Why?!” Crowley asks. “What were you talking about?!”

“She asked me if you were a good kisser!” Aziraphale tells him.

Crowley manages to blush harder. He hesitates, then he asks, “What did you say?”

Aziraphale lays a hand on his arm, pulling his closer and pressing a kiss to the skin just below his ear. “I gave you a very positive review,” he says in a low voice.

Crowley shivers. All he manages to say is: “Oh.”

Aziraphale hesitates. “Would you mind terribly if I asked to dance with you?”

“I wouldn’t mind at all,” Crowley assures him immediately. 

Crowley truly is an atrocious dancer; Aziraphale learns this first hand. His presence makes Aziraphale feel less self conscious about never stepping foot on a dance floor before now, though. He also finds it oddly charming. 

Anathema declares when it’s time to leave; it’s hard to tell whether she makes her decision based on being tired or based on wanting to go home and get on with the birthday sex portion of her evening, but either way Crowley is grateful to be leaving. 

“My knees are killing me,” Crowley mutters to Aziraphale as they make their way to the car.

“My ears are ringing,” Aziraphale offers sympathetically.

Anathema and Newt don’t pay either of them much attention as Crowley drives them home. They spend most of the ride canoodling in the backseat, but since it’s her birthday, Crowley doesn’t let it bother him. As long as they’re not doing anything that might leave a stain, he’s not too terribly concerned.

“Thank you for the ride, Anthony,” Anathema says affectionately once he drops them off. 

“And for the drinks,” Newt adds, his hands tentatively resting on her waist.

“Whatever,” Crowley says, although he’s smiling. “Happy birthday. Goodnight.”

“Oh, it will be a very good night,” Anathema informs him.

Once they’re gone, Crowley sighs, amused, shaking his head. “Do you think—?”

Aziraphale grabs him and pulls him into his lap, kissing him hard. Crowley moans; he can’t help himself. Aziraphale uses it as an opportunity to deepen the kiss, and Crowley practically swoons, melting into his arms and kissing him back fervently.

They spend several long moments like that, tucked into the passenger seat of Crowley’s car, kissing like teenagers whose parents have finally left them alone. When they finally separate, short of breath, Crowley wastes no time in asking while he has a surge of confidence: “Would you like to spend the night?”

Aziraphale’s immediate hesitance is evidence he didn’t phrase his request correctly. “I mean— not— that’s not— I don’t want to have sex with you.”

He winces. “I mean, I do!” he adds hastily, stumbling through his words. “I mean— well, not— I mean I am! Sexually attracted to you! You’re really hot! But I don’t want to have sex! Tonight— or, er, I mean— well, yeah, not tonight, but also not— I’m— waiting for marriage.”

Aziraphale stares at him for a moment, and then a smile breaks out onto his face. “ You’re waiting for marriage?”

Crowley blushes. “And what of it?”

You?” Aziraphale asks again. “The man sitting in my lap, who regularly talks about how the church and the Bible are full of it, is waiting for marriage?”

“It’s not for a religious reason!” Crowley insists, embarrassed. “It’s— I don’t think God cares whether I get dicked down or not! It’s— just— a personal preference!”

“A personal preference…” Aziraphale echoes, sounding very charmed.

Crowley hesitates. “I’d like to lose my virginity to my husband. Whenever and whoever that may be.”

A faint blush colors Aziraphale’s cheeks. “That’s very sweet.”

“I’m not sweet…” Crowley mutters.

Aziraphale pulls him down into another kiss. Crowley happily reciprocates. 

“What’s entailed in your invitation, exactly?” Aziraphale asks when they part.

“Oh,” Crowley says. “Er, we could— sleep… in the same bed. Er, cuddle. If you wanted to. And… possibly more kissing, if you’d be interested.”

“I’d be very interested,” Aziraphale says quietly.

“Oh,” Crowley says again. “Er— okay. So, er… to mine, then?”

Aziraphale kisses him once more. “To yours, then.”

In a similar fashion to Crowley earlier than evening, Aziraphale has never stepped foot in Crowley’s bedroom. He feels slightly odd doing so now, especially knowing he’s going to be crawling into bed with him. Crowley’s room is slightly more decorated than the rest of his flat, and a bit messier, too. His bed is unmade, and there’s a collection of photographs taped on the wall above his nightstand. Aziraphale wanders over and peers closer at them.

“Is this your Queen postcard?” he asks, pointing it out.

Crowley beams. “Yes.”

Aziraphale hums. “You must have very lovely dreams, now, knowing that he’s written down your name.”

The smile drops off Crowley’s face, replaced by a scowl. “Hush.”

Aziraphale laughs. For a moment, they stand, simply looking at one another, and then Aziraphale looks away sheepishly. “I’m afraid I don’t have anything to sleep in.”

“Oh,” Crowley says. He glances at his alarm clock; it’s nearly midnight. “Er, you could borrow something of mine, if you like.”

Aziraphale makes a face. “I don’t mean to sound rude, but I doubt any of your clothes would fit me.”

“Oh,” Crowley says again, immediately feeling silly. “Sorry. Er—” he hesitates. “If I’m being honest, usually I… just sleep in my underwear.”

Aziraphale glances at him. “Do you?”

“Yeah,” Crowley says quietly. “I mean, I wear pajamas sometimes , when I’m cold, but… seeing as you don’t have a lot of options, I suppose I’d be inclined to match.”

Aziraphale blushes. “I’m not going to let you watch me struggle to take these jeans off.”

“That’s fine!” Crowley says, trying not to laugh. “I don’t want you to watch me take mine off, either.”

“You do tend to wear very tight pants,” Aziraphale comments.

“Oh, have you noticed?” Crowley asks, smiling coyly.

They get undressed facing away from one another. It’s very strangely exhilarating. Crowley hears Aziraphale sit down on the bed while he’s still unbuttoning his shirt, so he abandons the buttons and just pulls it over his head. It feels slightly silly, but he wants to lay down with him as soon as possible.

Aziraphale stares at him as he crawls onto the bed, and at first Crowley is flattered, but his blood quickly turns to ice as he realizes where his gaze is fixed. 

“What?” he asks, struggling to keep his tone calm. “Is it the scars?”

“What?” Aziraphale asks, looking him in the eye. He’s confused for a moment, before letting his gaze flicker back down to his chest, and he seems to understand the question. “Oh! No, no— not at all, my dear. I wasn’t even— I was looking at your… tattoo.”

“Oh,” Crowley says, the tension dissolving. 

Aziraphale leans closer to read it. “Isaiah 43:1?”

“Yeah,” Crowley says quietly. “Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine.”

Aziraphale blinks up at him. “That’s— very sentimental for someone who so often talks about how the Bible isn’t terribly credible.”

“Well, if homophobes can pick and choose passages, I should be allowed,” Crowley says.

Aziraphale chuckles. “It’s a very lovely verse.”

“You’re a lovely verse,” Crowley mutters, crawling to sit next to him. “Hi.”

“Hello,” Aziraphale returns shyly. “I apologize, I’ve never really done this before.”

“What, laid in bed almost naked with another man?” Crowley asks. “It’s a little new to me, too.”

“I believe your invitation included an offer of more kissing,” Aziraphale says, “if I recall correctly.”

“You do,” Crowley says. “Er— recall correctly, I mean. If you—”

Aziraphale shuts him up with a kiss. It’s very effective.


Sunday, December 16, 1990

London


Crowley’s alarm is what wakes him, and he swears he’s never hated the sound of it more. He groans, shifting, and only then does it register that he’s curled up in someone else’s arms. As soon as he remembers who’s in bed with him, he blushes, unable to stop himself from grinning.

Aziraphale makes a disgruntled, sleepy sound, pressing his face into Crowley’s shoulder. “We need to get up,” he says, although he sounds as though he’d rather do anything else.

“Ngk,” is all Crowley offers.

Aziraphale hums. “We need to go to church.”

Crowley yawns, then stretches, groaning. He reaches over to his alarm and turns it off; the absence of noise is euphoric. He rolls over in Aziraphale’s arms to face him, then presses a chaste kiss to the corner of his mouth.

“Do we really?” he asks in a quiet voice.

Aziraphale sighs sleepily. “No,” he says. “I suppose we don’t.”

Crowley relaxes in his arms, snuggling against him and drifting back to sleep with a contented smile on his face.


Friday, December 21, 1990

London


Aziraphale spends the night, again, the following weekend, when Crowley invites him over to watch Licence to Kill . Instead of properly watching the movie, though, they sit on the floor in front of Crowley’s coffee table eating Vietnamese food and steadily getting tipsy off the bottle of wine Aziraphale brought over. When they’re finished eating, Crowley haphazardly gathers their trash and puts it in the bin, before returning to where Aziraphale is waiting on the couch.

They finish the wine and attempt to finish the movie, but by now it’s halfway done. Crowley tries to explain what’s happening, but he gets distracted, and by the time they actually turn their attention to the screen again, they’ve lost the plot once more.

Kissing, they eventually decide, is a much better way to pass the time, anyway. Crowley kisses Aziraphale’s lips, and then along his jaw and his neck, as well. Aziraphale admits he’s never been kissed there before. Crowley gives him a hickey as a souvenir. Aziraphale returns the favor.

They kiss well into the credits. Like teenagers, Crowley thinks to himself. Although, neither of them did very much kissing as teenagers, and certainly not kissing like this, so they’re not terribly upset about getting it over with now. 

They fall asleep on the couch. They’re both going to regret letting it happen in the morning.


Saturday, December 22, 1990

London


The cafe is nearly empty when Crowley and Aziraphale stop in; the only people there are two book club members— Basil and Percy— who are sitting at a table near the counter with Not-Camille, who spots them as soon as they walk inside. She offers them a small wave; Crowley hesitates, but is eventually forced towards them when Aziraphale presses him forward with a hand on the small of his back.

“Hi, Anthony,” Not-Camille says once they’re closer.

“Hey,” Crowley says stiffly, coming to a stop in front of the table.

The smile drops off her face. “Did you forget my name again?”

Crowley hesitates. “I know it starts with a C.”

She sighs, sadly. “Collette.”

“I knew that,” Crowley says. “I knew that the first time you told, me, too—”

“In March?” she asks flatly.

“You’ve known her since March and you didn’t know her name?” Basil asks.

“I thought it was Camille!” Crowley says, defensively. “Camille— Collette— those sound very similar!”

“Not really,” Percy says.

“Well, they both— start with a C— have two syllables—” Crowley stutters.

“If it helps,” Aziraphale says, “I didn’t know his name until we’d known each other for six months.”

“Wow, you’re both horrible with names, it’s like you’re meant for one another,” Percy says.

“Something like that,” Aziraphale says, while Crowley stands still, blushing and staring at the wall.

Aziraphale takes the parcel he’s holding with a death grip out of his hands and hands it to Collette. “This is from us.”

“Oh, thank you,” she says warmly; she reads the label and sets it on the table. “I’ll be sure to let Jasper know. He’s already left town.”

“Speaking of which,” Basil says, rising and grabbing their bag. “We’ll see you tonight, okay?”

“Okay!” Collette says brightly, standing with them. She gives them each a hug, and then she’s left alone with the couple.

“Peppermint hot chocolate with a raspberry crown, and an apple cider with a biscotti,” she says absently, turning back towards the counter.

“Are we your last customers before the holidays?” Aziraphale asks conversationally.

“So it would seem,” Collette says. “Any plans yourself?”

Aziraphale looks at Crowley; it takes him a moment to register that he needs to pick the conversation up. “Oh— er— we’re— going to see my mum.”

“Aw, nice,” Collette says quietly. “Will this be to go, or would you like to sit in your spot?”

“We’ll take it with us,” Aziraphale says. “Get out of your hair for the holidays.”

She hums. She doesn’t say much else while she makes their order. 

“Are you celebrating?” Aziraphale attempts.

“Mhm,” she says. “Christmas with pals.”

“How fun,” Aziraphale says. If Crowley catches his look asking him to add something to the conversation, he ignores it.

“Merry Christmas,” she says affectionately as she hands them their order. “On the house. For the holidays.”

“Oh, no, you don’t have to—” Aziraphale tries to say.

“I insist,” she says with a smile. “I’ll see you two after the new year. Have fun with your mum.”

Crowley doesn’t respond; Aziraphale nudges him. “Hm?” he asks. “Oh— er, thanks.”

Outside, Aziraphale purses his lips at him. “That was rather rude of you.”

“She’s annoying,” Crowley reasons.

“She gave you your cider for free because she thinks you’re handsome.”

“I am handsome!”

Aziraphale rolls his eyes. 


Sunday, December 23, 1990

London


Crowley sleeps all morning, having officially decided to turn his alarm off on Sundays. He wakes up, remembers he doesn’t have to get out of bed, smiles, and dozes off again.


Monday, December 24, 1990

Christmas Eve

Tadfield


They’re late arriving in Tadfield, but Rose is delighted by the reason why. A shelf breaking and spilling books everywhere isn’t exactly terribly eventful, but Rose manages to find the story hilarious when they tell it together, probably because of how Crowley had attempted to catch them and ended up falling flat on his face.

“My knees are still hurting from that,” Crowley mutters.

“Your father used to have that problem,” Rose says affectionately.

Crowley fidgets irritably. “Falling to catch books? Doesn’t seem like it’d be hereditary.”

Rose laughs, and then she coughs, and she doesn’t bring it up again, much to Crowley’s obvious relief.

Crowley makes pasta for dinner. He pulls Aziraphale to the side. “Talk about how much you like my sauce.”

“What?” Aziraphale asks.

“The Alfredo sauce!” Crowley amends quickly. “That wasn’t supposed to be a euphemism, Jesus!”

Aziraphale laughs.

There are six presents sitting under the Christmas tree. Crowley makes cocoa specifically because he knows Aziraphale likes it.

They end up laying across from one another in his childhood bed, hardly a few inches of space between them and a smattering of glow in the dark stars above them.

“I like your galaxy,” Aziraphale admits, and Crowley is thankful he can’t see him blushing in the dark. “Did you hang it yourself?”

“No,” Crowley lies, unwilling to admit he hung them up sometime when he was sixteen. “My dad must have done it for me or something.”

Aziraphale looks back at him; the moonlight from outside reflects on his face, and Crowley thinks he’s the most perfect man in the world. 

“Did you know,” Aziraphale says quietly, “we haven’t even known each other a year?”

Crowley swallows. “Feels like longer.”

“It does,” Aziraphale says with a smile. “I feel like I’ve known you for thousands and thousands of years.”

“It does feel like that, doesn’t it?” Crowley murmurs.

“I’m so happy I met you,” Aziraphale says earnestly. “I am— so happy you reached out to me. You walked up and I thought you were the most awkward person in the world.”

“Thank you,” Crowley says flatly.

“But,” Aziraphale continues, “you were also the first person to speak to me in years, in a church, and attempt to hold an honest conversation with me, and I couldn’t hear disgust in the back of your throat.”

“I could never be disgusted with you,” Crowley whispers. “You’re ethereal. You’re so wonderful and so kind and I’ve thought so since they day I met you. I just wanted to know you.”

“I thought about you all the time,” Aziraphale admits. “I was always so delighted when you kept popping up, kept coming back. You always said the most enthralling things that kept me thinking about you for days.”

“Now you’re just sweet talking me,” Crowley says cheekily. “I thought about you all the time, too. Still do.”

Crowley reaches between them very shyly and takes Aziraphale’s hand in his. He holds it in the small space between them. 

Aziraphale smiles gently at him. “Have you found somebody to love, Anthony?”

Crowley blushes, pressing his face into the pillow a little bit. “Might’ve. Dunno. Need to snog him a few more times to be sure.”

They both laugh, trying to keep themselves quiet. They lay in silence for a few moments, admiring one another. 

“I would be so lost without you,” Aziraphale whispers. “Anthony James, you truly are the most wonderful man alive.”

Crowley preens. “Please go on.”

Aziraphale rolls his eyes. “Surely you must know how thankful I am. After all those years of guilt and reverence, the most handsome man in the world comes along and teaches me how to properly worship God.”

The smile slips off Crowley’s face. He doesn’t answer him.

Aziraphale kisses him chastely. “Ineffable.”

Crowley is quiet for a long time. 

“Aziraphale,” he says nervously. “I have to tell you something. It might make you upset.”

“Are you going to tell me that after all your preaching, you don’t actually believe in God at all?” Aziraphale asks.

“No,” Crowley says quickly. “Of course I believe in God.”

He shuts his eyes, his breath hitching. He hesitates. “I mean I— I want to believe in God.”

“Wanting and doing are two different things,” Aziraphale says quietly.

“I know,” Crowley says tightly. “And I— I want to so bad. So bad . Fuck, Aziraphale. I want to believe in Him and I want to believe that I’ll go somewhere when I die— that He designed it all and there really is some sort of great plan, but I— I’m so fucking scared .”

Aziraphale let’s go of his hand and cups his face. “Scared of what?”

“Scared that there’s nothing there,” Crowley whispers. He refuses to open his eyes. “Scared that when I die, I’ll simply cease to be. That there’s nothing waiting on the other side. Or that— fuck, or that there is something, but— but I’ll be sent away from Him and His Kingdom because I didn’t have faith. Because I struggled to believe in Him until I knew for certain.”

He opens his eyes, and immediately there are tears spilling down his face. Aziraphale wipes them away with his thumbs. 

“You cry when you pray.”

“What?” Aziraphale asks.

“You cry when you pray,” Crowley says again. “I don’t feel anything when I pray.”

“Anthony…” Aziraphale says softly.

“What do you pray about?” Crowley asks, his quiet tone bordering on desperate. “What do you say to Him? What does He say back to you?”

Aziraphale watches him sadly for a moment, then lets go of his face to take his hands again. “Pray with me.”

“Oh,” Crowley says quietly, letting their fingers interlock. “I—”

“I’ll lead,” Aziraphale promises him. “I’ll say exactly what I say every time, more or less. Just participate.”

“Okay,” Crowley breathes.

Aziraphale takes a deep breath and closes his eyes. Crowley keeps his open, watching him.

Aziraphale prays. He prays for every person he can think of. Every unfortunate soul in the world who may be in need of God’s grace. He goes down a long and broad list of groups of people, and as he speaks his voice grows unsteady, and his shut eyes begin to drip wet with tears. Crowley watches him in awe as he narrows down the list to specific groups of people, until finally he gets down to names. He prays for Rose. He prays for Anathema, and Newt. He prays for Uriel and Raphael and their children. He prays for Gabriel. He prays for Crowley. 

Finally, he sniffs and opens his eyes, looking at Crowley earnestly. “Anything to add?”

Crowley opens and closes his mouth repeatedly. Finally, he just shrugs.

Aziraphale offers him a meek smile. “Amen?”

“Amen,” Crowley agrees, then leans forward to kiss him.

When he breaks the kiss, his tears have spilled down his cheeks. Aziraphale wipes them away again. “You’re crying now, too, see?”

“It’s not— I mean—” Crowley fumbles with his words. “I still didn’t feel anything. But you clearly feel everything .”

He places a hand over Aziraphale’s, where he’s cupping his cheek. Aziraphale pulls him into another chaste kiss. “Surely you know someone who’s in Heaven.”

“It’s not like it’s a two way call when you pray,” Crowley mutters; Aziraphale chuckles. “Besides, I don’t… well, I know one person who will get into Heaven.”

“Who?” Aziraphale asks quietly.

Crowley swallows. “My mum.”

It’s the first time he’s acknowledged out loud that she’s going to die.

Aziraphale sighs, wiping a fresh tear from his cheek. “Do you suppose your father will be waiting for her?”

Crowley makes a face, then he laughs. It’s a quiet little noise. 

“What’s funny?” Aziraphale asks, mirroring his grin.

“Nothing,” Crowley says. “My dad used to beat me.”

The smile drops off Aziraphale’s face immediately. “ What ?”

“Ngk,” Crowley says.

“Doesn’t your mum know that?” Aziraphale asks hastily.

“No,” Crowley says. “It’s my best kept secret.”

“Anthony…” Aziraphale whispers.

“He used to say if I told her, he’d hurt her, too,” Crowley says tightly. “And, you know, I was only, what? Thirteen? Fourteen? But God forbid, you know?”

“How could she not have known ?” Aziraphale asks. “Why didn’t you tell her— after he died?”

“If she knew about it when it was happening, she never did anything about it,” Crowley sighs. “And when he died, she was miserable . I felt like telling her would have taken something away from her. I didn’t want her to feel like she wasn’t allowed to mourn. And now it’s just been too long.”

Aziraphale rubs his thumb along Crowley’s cheekbone. “I didn’t know that.”

“Nobody knows that,” Crowley tells him. “Except him. But he’s not here anymore. Felt like there was never anyone to tell.”

“Is that…” Aziraphale hesitates. “Is that why you don’t want children?”

“Ngk…” Crowley mutters.

“You ought to tell your mum,” Aziraphale prompts.

“She’ll find out eventually,” Crowley sighs. “… I hope.”

“She will,” Aziraphale assures him. “There’s a Heaven, Anthony. She’ll be going there. You’ll be going there, too.”

“Well, I don’t know about that,” Crowley says. “Sometimes I wish I could just… ask him for a miracle. A piece of proof. I’m tired of being scared.”

“You shall not put the Lord, your God to the test,” Aziraphale says gently. “Deuteronomy 6:16.”

Crowley blinks. “Did you just quote scripture at me?”

Aziraphale smiles sheepishly. “Yeah, sorry.”

“No, it was kind of sexy,” Crowley says, and Aziraphale laughs. 

He takes his hand off Crowley’s cheek to cover his own mouth with it, trying to keep himself quiet, and Crowley looks at him like he hung the moon. When he’s finished laughing, Crowley reaches out and takes his hand, pressing a kiss to his palm.

“I love you.”

They stare at each other in silence. Crowley doesn’t let go of his hand.

“Too fast?” he asks quietly.

“Not at all,” Aziraphale whispers. “I love you, too.”


Wednesday, December 25, 1990

Christmas

Tadfield


Crowley wakes up in Aziraphale’s arms, his back pressed against him, and he sighs sleepily, leaning back against him and closing his eyes again. He dozes until the clock in the living room chimes; it’s already ten. Rose will be back from church by now. 

Crowley rolls over and presses a kiss to the corner of Aziraphale’s mouth. He doesn’t stir, so he continues peppering kisses on his face until he finally groans and shifts and blinks his eyes open.

Crowley is leaning over him in the sunlight that trickles through the blinds. “Hi.”

“Hi,” Aziraphale returns with a sleepy smile.

“I love you,” Crowley says.

Aziraphale’s smile widens. “I love you, too.”

Crowley mirrors his grin. “I will kiss you properly after I’ve brushed my teeth.”

“Good plan, thank you,” Aziraphale says as Crowley crawls out of bed.

Rose is in the living room in her usual spot, reading a book instead of her Bible. She looks thoroughly pleased when Crowley and Aziraphale emerge, sitting up slightly in her chair.

“Very lovely service this morning,” she comments. “Pity you missed it.”

“You know,” Crowley says, through a yawn, “it has been my dream to spend the entirety of Christmas day in my pajamas since I was old enough to understand the concept of changing clothes.”

“Which is why I put my pajamas back on,” Rose says. 

Only struggling slightly, Rose sits next to them on the floor near the base of the tree, grabbing her gifts and handing them over. “I’d like you to open mine first.”

Crowley tears into the paper; Aziraphale very carefully unpeels the tape and unwraps the gift. 

Crowley finds himself holding Rose’s Bible, the one she reads every morning when she wakes up. He looks up at her. “But you—”

“Won’t be needing it anymore,” Rose finishes for him. “Besides— I’ve read the whole thing cover to cover more times than I can count. Perhaps you might give it a try.”

Aziraphale also finds himself holding a Bible; the one in his hands is much newer.

“I hope you don’t mind,” Rose tells him, “but I’d prefer to pass that one,” she points to the one Crowley is holding, “on to blood relatives. But I was told you collect, so I tried to find you one I thought would suit you.”

“It does, very much,” Aziraphale tells her with a gentle smile. “Thank you.”

Crowley makes Rose and Aziraphale open their presents from him next. Rose finds herself in possession of a photo album that is filled entirely with photographs.

“You asked me to get your vacation photos developed,” Crowley explains. “But while you were gone I found a bunch of old film that had never been developed, either, so I took them all at once. There’s a lot of stuff in there from when I was little, too. Stuff I don’t remember. Lots of pictures with, er, dad.”

Aziraphale’s gaze flickers to Crowley, but if he’s thinking about it, he doesn’t show it. Rose opens the album and looks very affectionately at the first few pages, a gentle smile on her face. While she’s reminiscing over the photos, Aziraphale takes the opportunity to unwrap his gift.

It’s a copy of War and Peace ; it looks well loved. Aziraphale smiles at it, curious, and opens it up. Inside the front cover is written: God willing, you’ll never have to read this like I did… if you ever read it at all. Thank you for being my war and peace.

Aziraphale looks back at Crowley; everything about his expression screams adoration. 

“Anthony,” he says softly. “This is… gracious, I don’t even know what to say.”

Crowley smiles shyly at him, then looks away. While Rose is still looking at photos, quietly reminiscing to herself, Aziraphale pulls his gift for Crowley out from underneath the tree and hands it to him.

“Afraid I’m the only one not giving out a book, ironically,” he says sheepishly.

Crowley tears the paper off; inside, there are a dozen packets of seeds for flowers. He glances over them, a small grin on his face.

“I know you’re a professional gardener, and whatnot,” Aziraphale says, “but I didn’t know if you’d be explicitly familiar with flower language, so I left a note.”

Crowley gets the hint, picking the note up to read about the symbolism. Aziraphale has given him Asters (symbolic of patience), Chrysanthemums (symbolic of fidelity, optimism, joy and a long life), Daffodils (symbolic of regard and chivalry), Peonies (symbolic of bashfulness and compassion), and Roses (symbolic of love). Crowley reads over the list several times, each time the meanings of each flowers sinking in more and more. 

He tucks the seed packets and the note away, smiling sweetly at Aziraphale. “I have no idea where I’ll plant half of these.”

“Why not out in the garden?” Rose asks, shutting the album and deciding she can finish her trip down memory road later. “You’ll still be keeping the garden, won’t you?”

Crowley hesitates. “If that’s alright.”

“More than alright,” Rose assures him, as Aziraphale reaches under the tree to retrieve and hand her her present.

Rose gets very excited upon realizing it’s a bottle of wine, and then even more excited when she finds out what kind and what year. 

“I am going to have a party with myself,” she declares happily, setting the bottle on the coffee table.

Aziraphale yawns. “Would you mind if I made tea?”

“Knock yourself out,” Crowley says.

“Would you like a cup?” he offers as he stands. 

“No, thank you,” Rose says.

“I would,” Crowley says, and Aziraphale brushes a hand along his shoulder in acknowledgement as he passes. “Thank you, angel.”

Rose smiles at the pet name, then says, “Come here, I need to give you something.”

Crowley looks at her curiously. “What?”

“Help me up, and I’ll show you!” Rose insists.

Crowley stands with some effort and helps Rose up, before following her to her room. She shuts the door behind them.

“What is it?” Crowley asks, nervous.

“Nothing bad,” Rose assures him. “I’m giving you another present.”

“What’s—?”

Rose pulls him into a hug.

He freezes for a moment. “Er— what… is this… it’s a hug?”

“It’s a hug to make up for as many hugs as I should have been giving you for the past twelve years,” Rose says. 

Crowley swallows down the lump in his throat; he doesn’t say anything, because he knows if he tries, he’ll just dissolve into tears. Instead, he hugs her back. She doesn’t let go until he’s ready to let her go.


Friday, December 28, 1990

Tadfield


Crowley comes by to see Rose in the afternoon to help her pack some things up to donate. He ends up folding clothes that she’s pulled out of her closet to get rid of, when she finds standing to do it is too tiring. He spends most of the time telling her about Boxing Day with Anathema and Newt; he shows her the new earring Anathema got for him, and she retells the story of how she pierced her ears (with the use of an ice cube, a potato and a sewing needle).

She’s just finished her story when the doorbell rings. She stands to get it before Crowley can finish what he’s doing.

“I’ve got it, don’t worry,” she says, slowly making her way to the front door.

She returns a few moment later. “It’s for you.”

“For me?” Crowley asks, and she nods.

He finishes folding the shirt he has in his hands, then heads to the front door, dreading seeing Mr. Tyler’s face. Instead, he’s pleasantly surprised when he finds the Them waiting in the entryway, still bundled in their coats. Pepper is holding a cardboard sword; Adam a poorly wrapped parcel.

“Oh,” Crowley says, coming to a stop. “Hello.”

“Hi,” Adam says very seriously.

“We have a present for you,” Wensleydale says.

“Oh,” Crowley says. “I, er, don’t have anything for you lot. I’m sorry.”

“S’fine,” Adam says, very maturely. “Pepper, will you do the honors?”

Pepper stands up straighter. “We would like to officially invite you to become a proper member of The Them.”

“Oh?” Crowley asks, raising his eyebrows. “Thank you.”

“One condition,” Brian says.

“Alright,” Crowley says.

“Adam doesn’t want to DM our games anymore,” Wensleydale explains.

“He doesn’t?” Crowley asks.

“I don’t,” Adam says. “So we’d like to ask you to become an official party member and become our new Dungeon Master.”

Crowley blinks. “I’ve, er, never been a Dungeon Master before,” he admits.

“There’s a first time for everything,” Adam says wisely.

“Yes, I suppose there is,” Crowley says. “Although are you certain your parents would be comfortable with that? I’m a great deal older than you all.”

“My dads said you’re a very proper young man,” Wensleydale declares. “They said if we met somewhere like the library it could be great fun.”

“And my mum said she’s always gotten very good vibes from you,” Pepper chimes in. “I’m not entirely certain what that means, but I suppose it’s a good thing.”

“My mum said you used to babysit my older sister, so she trusts you,” Brian adds. “Like Wensley said— we could meet at the library.”

“My dad said he taught you how to drive,” Adam says, and the rest of the Them look at him, attentive. “He said you’re not a very good driver, and he hopes you’ve improved, but as long as you’re not driving me anywhere, you can DM for us.”

“Oh,” Crowley says. “Well— alright. If you’d really like me to.”

“We don’t know anyone else who plays Dungeons and Dragons,” Wensleydale says.

“And you’re the one who taught us to play in the first place,” Pepper reasons.

“And you’re really cool,” Brian adds.

“So this is for you,” Adam says cordially, handing Crowley the present he’s holding. “It’s a Dungeon Master’s Guide.”

“You’re not supposed to say what it is!” Pepper exclaims. “That ruins the whole surprise!”

“Actually, I think in the context of what we’re asking him to do, he probably already knew what it was,” Wensleydale says.

“We drew some things in specially for you,” Brian tells him.

“Yeah, because we have a few of our own rules,” Adam says. “So, do you accept the role of Dungeon Master?”

“Er, sure,” Crowley says with a smile.

“I will now smite thee,” Pepper says, raising the sword.

“It’s knight thee,” Wensleydale groans. “If you smite him, you’d kill him!”

“I’m going to make him a party member! I can call it whatever I want!” Pepper argues.

She looks expectantly at Crowley, frowning when he doesn’t move. “You’re supposed to get down on one knee.”

“Oh,” Crowley says; he bends down. “Sorry, I have bad knees.”

“Why?” Wensleydale asks.

“Just do,” Crowley shrugs. “Comes of being old.”

Pepper taps the sword on either side of his shoulders. Adam clears his throat. “Mr. Crowley, I now officially declare you a member of the Them!”

“Dungeon Master!” Brian exclaims excitedly.

Crowley stands back up. “Thank you. I’m very honored.”

“Is it true you have meetings by the month?” Pepper asks.

“It is,” Crowley says. “I’m quite busy, so D&D tends to take the backseat.”

He thinks for a moment. “How does the last Sunday of each month sound?”

The Them give this a long moment of consideration. “Sounds very good,” Adam finally declares.

“Alright,” Crowley says. “At the library, then?”

“What time?” Wensleydale asks.

“One?” Crowley suggests.

“P.M. or A.M.?” Brian asks.

“P.M.,” Pepper says incredulously. “The library isn’t open that late at night.”

“Technically one A.M. is in the morning,” Wensleydale points out.


Saturday, December 29, 1990

London


“I found one!” Anathema exclaims; the door to the bookshop makes a loud bang! as she enters, startling Aziraphale where he’s sat behind the counter. 

“Found what?” he asks her.

“Oh— sorry, I thought Anthony was here,” she says, doing her best to dial her energy down.

“Oh, he is,” Aziraphale says. “He took Rochester upstairs to feed him. Although that was nearly twenty minutes ago, so I suspect he got distracted playing with him. What did you find?”

Anathema hums. “Well, I suppose you’re going to be coming with us anyway, so just pass the news on to him, alright?”

“Alright,” Aziraphale agrees.

“We go to a New Years party every year,” Anathema explains, “but none of us ever host.”

“Oh?” he asks.

“I always find us a party to crash,” Anathema explains. “It’s far easier. Nobody has to plan anything or help clean up afterwards.”

“Oh,” Aziraphale says. “I’ve, er, never crashed a party.”

“I wouldn’t have guessed,” Anathema says sarcastically. “It’s really easy. All you have to do is show up like, an hour later, as a group, and only talk to people in your group and nobody will even question you. It’s great. Anthony and I have been doing it the past three years.”

“He didn’t strike me as the type,” Aziraphale says.

“He’s very much the type, it was originally his idea,” Anathema says, amused. “Although he was less into it last year, but I suspect it was entirely because he didn’t have anybody to snog at midnight. You’ll remedy that, of course.”

Aziraphale laughs, blushing. “Er— where’s this party gathering?”

Anathema grabs a pen off the counter and writes down an address and a time. “We’ll all meet up and drive together.”

“Alright,” Aziraphale says, warily. “I’ll be sure to let him know.”

“You’re an angel,” Anathema says sweetly, turning on her heel to head back towards the door.


Sunday, December 30, 1990

London


“Are you absolutely certain this… party crashing nonsense is such a good idea?” Aziraphale asks nervously.

“More than certain,” Crowley assures him; he’s sat on the floor looking through Aziraphale’s vinyl collection, which largely consists of records that were made when records were the only way to listen to music at home. “I’ve done it plenty of times before. I don’t even get anxious about it anymore, so it must be safe. Plus, the worst thing that could happen is the host finds out nobody knows us and we get asked to leave.”

“But what if somebody calls the police?” Aziraphale asks.

Crowley offers him a gentle smile. “I promise nobody is going to call the police. Unless we get up to any actual crimes, like property damage— which I assure you, won’t happen— there’d be no reason to call the cops. If we get caught, we just apologize and offer them twenty pounds and, you know. Skedaddle.”

Aziraphale makes an amused face. “Did you just say skedaddle?”

“That vocabulary word is not my fault,” Crowley says, a faint blush on his cheeks. “It’s yours.”

“How so?”

“I must’ve heard you say it. You’re rubbing off on me.”

“I see. And, are you ever going to settle on a record to play, or will you just sit on the floor for another hour without making a decision?”

“You are a bastard,” Crowley says with a smile.

“Hm,” Aziraphale says. “Not my fault. It’s yours. You’re rubbing off on me.”

“Okay, smart-ass,” Crowley says, picking a record out and handing it to him. “I’ve made my selection. You put it on, I don’t know how to use a turntable.”

Aziraphale takes the record and stands, making to do just that. Crowley puts the rest of the records he’s scattered around the floor back in their box and puts the box back on the shelf. Aziraphale puts the record on; neither of them are familiar with the song, but the melody is nice, so they don’t find it too concerning. 

Before Aziraphale can make a comment, Crowley slithers up behind him and snakes him arms around his waist, leaning down to rest his chin on his shoulder. “Hi.”

Aziraphale smiles sheepishly. “Hello.”

Crowley begins to sway side to side. “Could I entice you to dance with me?”

“Depends,” Aziraphale says. “Are you better at slow dancing than you are at… whatever it is you do in clubs?”

“I’ve never slow danced with anyone, so you’ll have to find out,” Crowley whispers in his ear.

Aziraphale hums, beginning to sway with him. “You’re a lot sappier than I thought you’d be, if I’m being honest.”

“I’m not sappy,” Crowley protests weakly.

“You are,” Aziraphale says. “You’re positively dripping.”

“I could make a dirty joke out of that, but I’ll have mercy,” Crowley teases.

“I think I get the gist,” Aziraphale chuckles. “Will you let go of me for a moment so I can turn around and we can dance properly?”

“Dunno, I kinda like this,” Crowley mutters, but nevertheless, he eases his grip so Aziraphale can face him. “Are we going to fight over who’ll lead?”

“I’ll lead,” Aziraphale says firmly.

“Alright,” Crowley agrees immediately.

Aziraphale takes his hand in his and lays his other on his waist. “Are you certain you’ve never slow danced before?”

“It’s just swaying, isn’t it?” Crowley asks quietly.

“Maybe,” Aziraphale says. “But you seem like the kind of person who would get asked to formals.”

Crowley laughs. “I looked very different in secondary school.”

“Well, for what it’s worth, I think you’re very handsome,” Aziraphale says.

“You’re quite the charmer,” Crowley mutters. “Would you ask me to a formal?”

“Absolutely. I’d love to see you in a suit.”

“Oh, I’d love to see you in a suit, don’t even make me think about it.”

“I’m certain you’d look very nice in a light color.”

“What, my khakis aren’t enough for you?”

Aziraphale laughs. “I might like to see you in a white suit. One day.”

“Oh yeah?” Crowley asks, raising an eyebrow. “One day?”

“That’s all I’m going to say,” Aziraphale says sheepishly. “I wouldn’t want to jinx anything.”

“Yeah, okay,” Crowley teases. 

Aziraphale leans against Crowley, resting against his torso. “I love you.”

Crowley holds him close, still swaying. “I love you, too,” he sighs happily.

They stay like that as one song fades into the next. Crowley traces his thumb in the shape of a heart on the skin of Aziraphale’s hand. 

“Do you think—?”

“Aziraphale.”

The couple snaps apart, not expecting to hear a voice that doesn’t belong to either of them. They turn to face the door; standing in the doorframe looking quietly outraged is Gabriel. Crowley’s blood turns to ice in his veins, and based on the look on Aziraphale’s face, the same happens to him. The turntable keeps spinning, delightfully providing an ambient song for such a horrifying moment.

Gabriel blinks, his gaze boring into Crowley; it takes every ounce of his self control not to look away in shame. 

Gabriel looks at Aziraphale. “Is this why you haven’t been coming to church?”

Aziraphale swallows. “There are a lot of reasons I haven’t been coming in.”

“But this?!” Gabriel exclaims, pointing at Crowley. “Him?! Have you actually let him talk you into—?!”

“He hasn’t talked me into anything,” Aziraphale says, making an honest attempt at keeping his voice steady. “He’s a very smart man and I’m very happy he’s a part of my life, because he’s helped me realize a great deal of things about myself that you’ve spent every waking moment tormenting me for.”

“Oh, he’s helped you realize things, has he?” Gabriel asks, his tone mocking. “Things like—?”

Crowley grabs a wine bottle off the coffee table; it’d been half full when they’d started the evening, but now it was empty. He holds it up threateningly. “If you say what I think you’re about to say, I’m going to use this on you. And not in a fun way.”

Gabriel looks stricken. He takes a step forward, trying to speak, and Crowley takes a step towards him in return, the bottle still raised. “I am not a violent person, but I will become a violent person if you take another fucking step towards us.”

“Are you out of your mind?!” Gabriel asks incredulously. He looks at Aziraphale, disbelieving. “Surely you realize how insane he sounds?!”

Aziraphale swallows. “I think he’s rather chivalrous.”

Gabriel sputters. “This— this is disgusting.”

Aziraphale looks like he’s been slapped in the face. Still, he manages: “No. It isn’t. And I could stand here all evening telling you exactly why it isn’t, but I don’t think you want to hear that. I don’t think I’m ever going to change your mind, so I’d like to politely ask you to get out of my shop.”

“Mum wouldn’t want this,” Gabriel says.

Aziraphale winces. “I’ve had this conversation with mum several times,” he says thickly. “If she really is somewhere with Him, then she knows I’m okay and she’ll just want me happy.”

“She wanted you to be a priest,” Gabriel says.

“Well I don’t want to be a priest,” Aziraphale says, his voice strained. “I want to fall in love and get married and run my shop. I talk to mum often. She knows that by now. If she still has hopes of me becoming a priest, she’s just going to have to spend the rest of eternity being disappointed.”

Crowley blinks, frowning in confusion and lowering the wine bottle, much to his arms relief. “Am I missing something?”

Gabriel looks at him, frustrated. “Aziraphale is my brother.”

Crowley blinks, then he makes a disgusted face. “Ew.”

“What?” Aziraphale asks.

“Oh, it’s nothing you did,” Crowley assures him. “I just hate him.”

“The feeling is very mutual,” Gabriel growls.

“Once again, you’re not here to do anything but berate and guilt me, so please get out of my shop,” Aziraphale says, exasperated.

“You’re making a mistake,” Gabriel bites out. “You’re going to regret this when—”

“You’re going to regret this when you meet Him and He tells you that He makes everyone the way He makes them,” Aziraphale says calmly. 

“Yeah, and He makes people gay, but He definitely doesn’t make people arseholes, so that one’s all on you,” Crowley adds.

“Anthony,” Aziraphale says softly.

“You’re both sinners,” Gabriel sneers.

“We’re all sinners,” Aziraphale says, rolling his eyes. “Please get the fuck out of my shop.”

Gabriel leaves, although he seems like he’ll have more to say at a later date; Aziraphale and Crowley stand in silence until they hear the bell above the door ring, and then they each let out a breath. 

“I should lock that,” Aziraphale says weakly.

“I’ll do it,” Crowley offers. “You sit down.”

Crowley locks the front door and turns the lights in the shop off, gathering Rochester off the front counter where he was dozing and carrying him to the back room. Aziraphale is seated on the couch now. The turntable is still playing cheerful music.

Cowley sits down next to him; Rochester bounds out of his lap and up the stairs into the flat. Crowley watches him go for a moment, before he looks back at Aziraphale. “Are you alright?”

Aziraphale blinks. “Well, I certainly wasn’t planning on having that conversation tonight.”

“Yeah,” Crowley says quietly. “I’m sorry. I’m sure that was— scary.”

“Oh, it’s not your fault,” Aziraphale assures him. “Thank you for… defending me. That was very courageous of you.”

Crowley snorts. “I dunno if I’d call it that. I doubt I’d have it in me to actually hit him with anything. Besides, he’s a lot bigger than me. He could probably snap me like a toothpick. You could probably snap me like a toothpick. Although admittedly I’d probably enjoy it more if you did it.”

“You’re rambling,” Aziraphale points out.

“Right, sorry,” Crowley says. “But still. I know it wasn’t my fault, but I’m sorry. I’m sure that wasn’t your ideal coming out situation.”

“He already knew I was gay,” Aziraphale mutters. “He was just hoping I’d suffer in silence for the rest of my life.”

“Well, he’s a bastard, and if I ever see him again, I’ll tell him that to his face,” Crowley says firmly. “Are you seriously related to him?”

“Unfortunately,” Aziraphale sighs.

“I was wondering why he was all up in your business,” Crowley says. “It was starting to get annoying. Can you divorce siblings? Because I absolutely do not want to be in-laws with him.”

“You can’t. I’ve checked,” Aziraphale says.

There’s a lapse of silence.

Aziraphale looks at him curiously. “In-laws?”

“Ah— er—” Crowley stutters, blushing. “Hey, you were the one who said you wanted to see me in a white suit.”


Monday, December 31, 1990

New Year’s Eve

London


Crowley gets home from work later than he thought he would, so he has to rush to change. He finds his favorite pair of nice pants tucked somewhere he doesn’t remember putting them in his closet, and he tries not to think about why he put them there in the first place as he wiggles his way into them. He puts on a nice shirt, fixes his hair (by making it messier), brushes his teeth, puts on a very small amount of cologne, practices asking Aziraphale to kiss him in the mirror (not that he would ever admit to such a thing) and then puts his shoes back on and heads back downstairs.

There are more people at the party than Anathema had anticipated, but that only works in their favor. Nobody bats an eye when they enter; somebody standing near the door points them towards where to find a drink, but other than that, they go completely undetected. 

“We’re late,” Anathema says in Crowley’s ear. “And it’s your fault.”

“I said I was sorry!” Crowley says. “You didn’t tell me the drive was gonna take that long!”

“Well, now we only have, like, an hour to enjoy the party,” Anathema complains. 

“That might be bad news for you,” Crowley says, “but for me that just means there’s less time standing between me and going home to get in bed.”

“You’re such an old man,” Anathema groans. “You have a boyfriend this year, aren’t you at least excited about that?”

“Oh, very,” Crowley says. “But I’m also excited about sleeping in tomorrow morning.”

Anathema rolls her eyes. “Whatever you say.”

Crowley and Aziraphale find somewhere to sit where Crowley is practically in Aziraphale’s lap, the two of them sharing a Coke since neither of them wanted to commit to a drink.

“Have you ever been to a New Year’s party?” Crowley asks, resting his head on his shoulder.

“I hadn’t been to many parties before meeting you,” Aziraphale says.

“Do you enjoy them?” Crowley asks.

“Only when you’re with me,” Aziraphale says. “I suspect they wouldn’t be anywhere near as fun if you weren’t around.”

“Oh, stop, you’re sweet talking me,” Crowley teases.

Aziraphale takes a sip of their drink, before passing it to Crowley. “It is a bit exciting.”

“The party?” Crowley asks as he goes to take a drink.

“Crashing one,” Aziraphale says quietly. “It makes me feel a bit… oh, I don’t know. I’m being silly.”

“Not at all,” Crowley assures him. “Seems it’d be a very daring thing for you to do.”

“Well, yes, I suppose,” Aziraphale says. “I don’t get up to much. Not like you do.”

“Oh, and what do I get up to?”

“You were expelled from school! You kissed two strangers at a concert!”

“Only one of them was a stranger! And I would never do that now. I never liked kissing strangers much.”

“Still doesn’t explain how you got expelled.”

“Rebellious teenage phase. My dad had just died, I felt invincible.”

“Did you crash many parties in school?”

“I had to. I didn’t get invited.”

“You seem like the kind of person who gets invited everywhere.”

“Oh, yeah? Why’s that?”

“You’re very handsome. If I was having a party I’d certainly want you there, just to be able to look at you.”

“Oh, hush,” Crowley says, swatting his shoulder. “You’re spoiling me with compliments.”

“I think you like it,” Aziraphale says.

Crowley blushes. He doesn’t want to admit to such a thing, so instead he says, “Terribly different to how you reigned in the New Year last year?”

“Only the polar opposite,” Aziraphale teases. “I was probably asleep this time last year.”

“I was sitting in a bathtub,” Crowley says. 

An amused look passes over Aziraphale’s face. “Filled with water…?”

“No!” Crowley laughs. “It was empty. We were sitting in the bathroom—”

“We?”

“—Anathema and Newt and I. I was upset.”

“Were you now?”

“Well, I was— grumpy, I suppose is the correct word. I never liked New Years parties when I was coming alone.”

“So why were you in the bathroom?”

“Well, Newt was in the bathroom because it was quiet. Anathema dragged me in so we could, er… we wrote resolutions.”

“Do you remember what they were?” Aziraphale asks, but Crowley has an odd look on his face. Without saying anything, he digs his hand into his pocket and pulls out a crumpled up piece of paper.

Aziraphale frowns. “Why do you have a Chinese food menu?”

Crowley unfolds it and flips it over.

Get laid.

Get a boyfriend.

Stop going to church.

Come out.

Quit smoking.

Get promoted.

Aziraphale reads the list over Crowley’s shoulder. “Are these your resolutions?”

Crowley hesitates. “I guess I haven’t worn these pants for a year.”

Aziraphale hums. “Pity. You look very good in them.”

“Are you flirting with me?” Crowley asks, unable to stop himself from smiling.

“Maybe,” Aziraphale says. “Why’d you scratch out get laid?”

“Because I don’t want to get laid,” Crowley says, blushing. “I wanted a boyfriend. I already told you, I’m waiting for marriage.”

“Well, you can scratch that one off the list, then,” Aziraphale says. “Unless you don’t think I count.”

“You count,” Crowley says softly. He takes a sip of their drink. “Huh.”

“What?”

“I forgot I even made this,” Crowley says. “Well, I guess Anathema wrote everything down, but I forgot I had even settled on resolutions.”

“Well, you got one of them done,” Aziraphale offers helpfully.

“I got all of them done,” Crowley points out. “I wasn’t even trying to. I started talking to you on a whim, I’m not going to church anymore, I told my mum I’m gay, she talked me into quitting smoking, and Dagon promoted me without me having to ask.”

Aziraphale hums. “Well, it sounds to me like you’ve had a very productive year.”

Crowley folds the paper back up and tucks it back in his pocket. Aziraphale takes the Coke and takes a sip. “Any resolutions for this year?”

“Resolutions aren’t really my thing,” Crowley admits. “I’m more of a day to day goal-setter.”

“Well, that’s very admirable,” Aziraphale says. “Perhaps you can come up with five more, though?”

“Don’t have anything to write them down with.”

Aziraphale produces a pen.

“You’re a right bastard, you are,” Crowley mumbles; he pulls the paper back out of his pocket and smooths it out, laying it on his thigh. “You have to come up with five, too.”

“Alright,” Aziraphale agrees. “Here’s my first: spread peace and love and glad tidings of great joy throughout the world.”

“I’m not writing all of that down,” Crowley says flatly.

“Then just write peace,” Aziraphale instructs him.

Crowley does so. “My first one will be, er…” he thinks for a moment, “… move my desk near the window.”

If Aziraphale thinks it’s a lame goal, he doesn’t comment. “I’d like to try to get out more.”

Crowley scribbles this down, then pauses. “I’d like to find the time to alphabetize my tapes.”

“Very tidy of you,” Aziraphale says as Crowley writes such down. “I’m trying to be nicer to customers.”

“You do tend to scare people off when you want peace,” Crowley says with a smile. He thinks for a moment. “I’d like to be a good boyfriend.”

“Well, you can go ahead and mark that down as done,” Aziraphale mumbles into his shoulder. “I will try to be polite to Gabriel, no matter what the provocation.”

“Ew,” Crowley mutters, and Aziraphale can’t help but laugh. Crowley writes it down anyway, then sighs and says, “I will try to be nicer to Anathema, because she’s my friend and I love her and I don’t always like it when we’re mean.”

“That’s very sweet,” Aziraphale comments. “My final resolution is to feed the ducks more often.”

Crowley stops writing and looks at him. “Where are you feeding ducks?”

“St. James Park,” Aziraphale says innocently. 

“Why haven’t you invited me?” Crowley whines. “That’s like my dream date!”

“Well, I didn’t know that!” Aziraphale says with a smile. “I’ll take you to feed the ducks.”

“You better,” Crowley mutters, and at the bottom of each of their lists he just writes DUCKS.

“I’m sorry,” Aziraphale says. “I didn’t know your dream date involved feeding ducks.”

“I love ducks,” Crowley says. “And I love you. So. Y’know. Makes sense.”

“Well, perhaps one day, when it starts to get a little warmer, we can go for a meal,” Aziraphale suggests. “And afterwards we can go for a stroll and sit in the park and feed the ducks.”

Crowley jams the paper back into his pocket, handing Aziraphale his pen back. “You know, once you get past all the repression and the Catholic guilt, you’re really quite the romantic.”

Aziraphale chuckles. “Forgive me, but now that I’ve warmed up to the idea, being your boyfriend sounds quite exciting.”

“I dunno if exciting is the right adjective to use, considering my dream date is feeding ducks,” Crowley points out.

“That’s about all the excitement I can handle,” Aziraphale admits. 

“Well, you’ve crashed a New Year’s Eve party, angel,” Crowley says. “You can only go up from here.”

“I don’t want to go any higher,” Aziraphale insists. “We can go to brunch and feed the ducks.”

“And go home and take a nap?” Crowley asks.

“You do love to sleep,” Aziraphale says thoughtfully.

“I’ve found I like it even more when you’re in bed with me,” Crowley says. He takes a sip of their drink. “Sorry if that’s weird.”

“Not at all, you’re quite charming,” Aziraphale murmurs. “I like laying in bed with you, too.”

Crowley is about to say something about leaching body heat from him, when the surrounding party goers begin to count down from thirty. Crowley sets their drink down. “Have you ever kissed anyone on New Year’s?”

“No,” Aziraphale admits.

“I haven’t either,” Crowley says sheepishly. “Last year I smoked a cigarette into the New Year.”

“Sitting in a bathtub,” Aziraphale adds.

“Right, yeah,” Crowley laughs. “I must say your lap is a much appreciated improvement.”

“Thank you, my dear,” Aziraphale says. He wraps an arm around Crowley’s waist and pulls him closer. “Something tells me you’ve been practicing asking me.”

Crowley swallows. “I had. Forgot what I was going to say, now, though.”

“Pity,” Aziraphale says. “I’m sure it would have been very fetching.”

“Oh, fetching, that’s a new one,” Crowley says. “How’s this: I love you. Would you like to kiss me, please?”

“Fancy that, I was right,” Aziraphale says with a smile. “You are quite fetching.”

Crowley kisses him to shut him up. Aziraphale eagerly accepts.

Chapter Text

Saturday, January 1, 2000

The Solemnity of Mary, the Mother of God

Tadfield


The front door of Jasmine Cottage is decorated with a wreath; nothing festive, nothing that suggests it was dawned for the holidays. It’s made mostly from dried flowers; Aziraphale suspects Crowley helped her pick them out. 

“Did you?” he asks.

“Hm?” Crowley asks sleepily.

“Help her pick those out,” Aziraphale says, nodding to the wreath. “S’that what you were doing up here last weekend?”

Crowley blinks. He thinks for a moment. “Yeah.”

Aziraphale chuckles. “It’s a miracle you managed to drive us here.”

“It’s early,” Crowley says flatly.

“You’re barely awake at all,” Aziraphale says. “How you managed to drive like that is beyond me.”

“I’m the only one of us who can drive,” Crowley points out. “And besides, I wasn’t the one who made the decision to keep me up last night.”

“That was a two party decision, you were half the party making that decision,” Aziraphale says.

“Well, don’t take this the wrong way, but I wish I’d made the decision to get an extra hour of sleep,” Crowley says.

“I’ll take that into consideration the next time you want to be intimate.”

“No idea how I’m supposed to keep up with a four year old like this.”

“It’s your own fault for being her favorite.”

“I don’t get to pick who her favorite is, angel. I just get to relish in the fact that it’s me.”

The door finally opens. Anathema leans against it. “You’re late.”

“It’s early,” Crowley says again.

“Ignore him, he’s cranky,” Aziraphale says.

“Did you at least bring wine?” Anathema asks.

Aziraphale presents her with a bottle.

“Oh, it’s one of your sparkling juice things,” Anathema says as though she’s disappointed, but there’s a smile on her lips. 

“Some of us are on anxiety medication,” Crowley reminds her.

She rolls her eyes. “Come inside, then. You’ll catch your death.”

“There’s the mum phrase,” Crowley says, stepping over the threshold. She swats him on the shoulder as he passes her.

Newt is hovering in the kitchen. Agnes is clinging to his leg; when she spots Crowley, her face lights up and she abandons her dad, making a beeline for him.

Newt follows her with his eyes. “Someone’s happy to see you.”

“Only because I’m the best God-father in the world,” Crowley points out; he lifts her up and she wastes no time wrapping her arms around his neck. “Hello, darling.”

“We’re making capiche,” Agnes says very firmly.

“Capiche?” Crowley echoes, looking at Newt questioningly.

“She means quiche,” Newt says with a smile.

“Dunno, I like the sound of capiche,” Aziraphale says. He offers Agnes a wave. “Hello, dear.”

She smiles shyly and hides her face in the crook of Crowley’s neck. 

“She’s being silly,” Anathema says, setting the bottle on the counter. “She’ll warm up to you in a bit, Aziraphale.”

“Usually takes her a minute,” Aziraphale remarks.

“I wouldn’t know, I happen to be the favorite,” Crowley teases, and Agnes giggles.

“She has bad taste,” Anathema whispers to Aziraphale. He laughs.

“Anthony, your husband is making fun of you,” Newt points out, grinning.

“He’s just jealous,” Crowley says, very confident in this fact. “Maybe if you’d come down last weekend to dry out flowers you’d be a little more in her favor.”

Agnes grins. Aziraphale rolls his eyes, but he’s smiling. “I had an associate coming by Saturday afternoon, I couldn’t get away.”

An associate,” Crowley echoes, mimicking his accent. Agnes laughs. “That’s his fancy way of saying men who come by to talk about books.”

“And sometimes women,” Aziraphale amends. “And they’re very old and rare books worth a lot of money.”

“Because we all know Anthony married you for your money,” Anathema says, and Newt laughs loudly.

“I’m saying this entirely as a hypothetical because I love you very much and I wouldn’t want to be married to anybody else,” Crowley says, “but if I was going to marry someone for their money I would have aimed higher.”

“I take no offense to that, I run a used bookshop,” Aziraphale says lightly.

“Hey, I married a Witchfinder Private and I’m literally a witch, so I’m not one to pass judgements,” Anathema says.

“Funny, I think that’s the first time you’ve ever passed on making a judgement on me the entire time I’ve known you,” Crowley says.

“Sorry to interrupt,” Newt says, “but I need you each to tell me what you’d like in your, er, capiche.”

“Ladies first,” Crowley says, shifting and setting Agnes back down. She protests minimally, before darting back over to Newt. 

“Any resolutions?” Aziraphale asks.

“I’m going to learn how to make crepes,” Newt declares happily. 

“We’re going to read Harry Potter,” Agnes says proudly.

“I have heard very good things about Harry Potter,” Aziraphale says fondly. 

“Do you sell Harry Potter in your store?” she asks eagerly.

“I might,” Aziraphale says. “It depends. Are you the one buying?”

She smiles and hides behind Newt’s leg. “Maybe.”

“How about you two?” Anathema asks. “Any resolutions?”

“Feed the ducks,” Aziraphale offers with a shrug.

“Oh, come off it, you say that every year,” Anathema says.

“And every year we feed the ducks,” Crowley says.

“If you already do it every year, it doesn’t really need to be a resolution,” Newt points out.

“Well, we’d like to keep doing it every year,” Aziraphale says.

“You two are so old, I hate it,” Anathema says.

“Hey, you’re not allowed to call me old anymore, because we’re both in our thirties,” Crowley says. “We’ve been over this.”

“Yeah, but you turn forty this year,” Anathema says. “Jesus, you were born in 1960. That’s like a billion years ago.”

“It was forty years ago,” Crowley says flatly. 

“Agnes, when was the year 1960?” Anathema asks, stealing Agnes’ attention away from her dad.

She looks pensive for a moment. “Ancient Greece.”

She says it with a very definite air of confidence, so much so that Aziraphale can’t help but laugh. Crowley looks at him incredulously, but he can’t keep the smile off his face. 

“Oh, I’m sorry, dear,” Aziraphale says to him. “I just— had this mental image of you in a toga and I—”

He dissolves into laughter again; this time Anathema joins him. Crowley purses his lips, but he’d be lying if he said it wasn’t amusing. He looks down at Agnes. “You know I was born in 1960?”

She raises her eyebrows, surprised. “You’re old.”

“Yeah, but Aziraphale is older than me,” Crowley assures her.

Agnes nods wisely. “Super old.”

“You’ve been declared super old,” Crowley tells him happily.

“Well, you’re the one who’s married to someone who’s super old, so I don’t know what to tell you,” Aziraphale reasons.

“This banter right here is why you two go on old people dates like feeding ducks,” Anathema says. “One of you should take up knitting.”

“Whether or not I take up knitting is none of your business,” Crowley says defensively.

“Are you implying that you’ve already taken up knitting?” Anathema asks, grinning wickedly. “Because if you—”

“Darling,” Newt says, catching her attention. “What do you want in your capiche?”

Anathema points a finger at Crowley. “This conversation isn’t over.”

“Shall I knit you a sweater?” he asks her.

“I would scream,” she assures him, turning to face Newt.

“You’re not quite to sweater knitting skill levels,” Aziraphale says tentatively.

Crowley hums. “I didn’t say I’d knit her a good sweater.”

“Perhaps you should perfect a sweater for Vesper before you move onto knitting things for beings with arms,” Aziraphale suggests.

Anathema whirls around. “You’re knitting sweaters for your snake?”

“So what if I am?” Crowley retorts. 

His watch chirps at him; he brings it up to check it. “Ah.”

“Ah, what?” Newt asks.

“If I tell you, you’ll think it’s sappy,” Crowley insists.

“Tell me, then, so I can think it’s sappy,” Anathema insists.

“It’s eleven thirty,” Crowley declares. “Which means on this day at roughly this time ten years ago, I introduced myself to you,” he looks at Aziraphale, “for the very first time.”

“That is sappy,” Anathema says, but she turns back around to let them have their moment.

“Happy New Year,” Crowley says fondly.

“Happy New Year, Mr. Crowley,” Aziraphale returns, pulling him into a chaste kiss.