“We’re not going,” Crowley said resolutely.
He was leaning, arms folded, against the side of Aziraphale’s roll-top desk, where the angel was seated as he went through his correspondence.
“I disagree,” said Aziraphale, “but go on. I can tell you have a whole case to make. Let’s get it out of the way.”
“It’d be pointless, angel,” Crowley said, “I already know how it’ll go. They’ll pester us with useless questions. What was the Garden of Eden really like? ” Now he was pitching up his voice and affecting a truly tragic American accent. “ Did you really meet Shakespeare? Did you really invent winged eyeliner?”
“But just look at this lovely invitation!” Aziraphale admiringly held up the square of lavender letterpress stationery, upon which one Anathema Device had kindly requested the pleasure of their company that upcoming weekend, in determinedly spidery handwriting that looked like it was constantly on the verge of lapsing back into teen-girl rounded print.
“Invitation schmimvitation. Hanging out with humans is one thing, but humans who know who we are? Who know what we are? I promise you, it won’t end well for either of us.”
Aziraphale chose his next words carefully. “If you really don’t want to go, Crowley,” he said, “I think I’ll go… without you.”
Crowley stiffened, almost invisibly so; but Aziraphale knew he’d hit his mark.
“What, so— so you’d take the bus? ” the demon blustered.
“I’m perfectly capable of transporting myself, you know. I’ll just tell them that you couldn’t make it because you were too busy shutting down the escalators at Oxford Circus again.”
Crowley groaned, relenting. “No, alright, alright, I’ll go. I’ll go!”
Aziraphale allowed himself to flash a contented smile in Crowley’s direction before returning to his letters.
And so it was that they found themselves three days later, on a suspiciously lovely Sunday afternoon, on their way back to Tadfield for the first time since The Big One.
Unhurried by threats of an oncoming apocalypse, the drive out to Oxfordshire was taken at a slightly more sedate pace— but only slightly, as Aziraphale still found it necessary to grip the sides of his seat for balance as the Bentley careened down miles of rural lanes.
Having only ever seen it for a short moment in the dark of night, Aziraphale was delighted to finally confirm that Jasmine Cottage was a simply darling little abode, with the beginnings of a ramshackle herb garden springing up out front and a familiar (single-speed) bicycle parked to the side of the path.
Met at the door by Anathema, Aziraphale proffered his hand to shake but was surprised to find himself being pulled into a hug; from behind Anathema, her young man waved nervously at the two guests, looking as out of place in this domestic situation as he had at the crisis at the airfield. It was possible he was simply congenitally incapable of looking comfortable.
Anathema didn’t attempt to spring a hug on Crowley, a correct choice which seemed to earn her some small measure of esteem from him. He let her lead him and Aziraphale into a parlor artfully decorated with vaguely occult tchotchkes, where they all took seats around a glass-topped coffee table, and Anathema served them her famous carob chocolates from a ceramic dish. Aziraphale watched with some amusement out of the corner of his eye as Crowley took one very small nibble of one of the chocolates, made a face, and shoved the rest of it between the cushions of his armchair while their hosts weren’t looking.
After some manner of catching up, Aziraphale inquiring after Adam (still blissfully, remarkably normal), Crowley wondering if the airbase had recovered from the disruption (as seamlessly as if it hadn’t happened), and the mandatory light chatter about the weather (very nice for this time of year), Anathema fixed the two of them with a curious stare.
“So, like,” she said, “what’s your deal?”
Crowley sighed, like he’d been expecting this. “I’m a demon, he’s an angel—“
“No, I know that. But you two. In particular. Like, boyfriends? Husbands? Life partners?”
Crowley immediately let loose a storm of broken syllables, able to sound utterly offended without forming any actual words, before finally managing: “You— you can’t just define our relationship in your petty human terms! We’re thousands of years old , you—“
“We were enemies, technically—” Aziraphale broke in.
Crowley flapped a hand at him to shut it. “—wouldn’t understand, the Arrangement, that’s how it started, really—”
“—now we spend most of our time together, but that’s only because—”
“—but we don’t live together—“
“—there’s a certain allegiance we’ve formed, completely platonic, you see, and—”
“—just convenience, really, we’ve got more in common than with our head offices—”
“—we rather enjoy each other’s company,” finished Aziraphale lamely, concurrently with Crowley trailing off in a mutter of “—it’s just sort of how it all shook out.”
“So… you’re… friends ,” Anathema said, slowly and skeptically.
“Yup,” said Crowley. Aziraphale swallowed down a pointless but long-standing reflex to deny that statement and averred, “Yes, quite.”
“Uh huh,” said Anathema, in an inscrutably American way that made something ineffably English inside of Aziraphale bristle with mild offense. She clapped her hands together and stood from the sofa with a swoosh of crepe and velvet. “Well, Newt, I think it’s time for tea,” she said meaningfully, tipping her head in the direction of the kitchen. Newton jumped up obediently and trotted after her for all the world like a puppy in a checked jumper.
“Crowley,” Aziraphale said when they’d gone, “please remove that chocolate from the cushions and put in the bin.”
“What is up with those guys?” whispered Newt to Anathema as he arranged a variety of home-cooked pastries on the tea tray. He’d gotten very into GBBO lately and had discovered, to both his and Anathema’s astonishment, that he was a dab hand at flaky crust. “So hard to watch.”
“It’s excruciating,” agreed Anathema. “God, I had no idea. You’d think after that long they would have figured it out.”
“That’s optimistic of you,” said Newt. “Not everyone’s got your confidence, you know. If you hadn’t just gone and decided I was your boyfriend, I never would’ve been able to work up the nerve to ask.”
“...Not even after all the sex?”
“Yeah... probably not even then.”
Anathema tapped a finger contemplatively on her chin as she stared down at Newt’s delectable display.
“Uh oh,” said Newt. “I know that look. That’s your plan look. Are you planning something?” He sighed. “Whatever it is, can’t it wait until after tea?”
At this, Anathema startled into what looked very much like a classic lightbulb moment. “Newt, you’re a genius!”
“Er. Well, thank you, but I don’t—”
“Tea! That’s it! God, I could kiss you!”
“You could,” said Newt encouragingly. Anathema laid a cheeky kiss on his lips, and then, in a low whisper, began to explain.
The young couple returned to the parlor bearing the overburdened tray, and Anathema did her guests the honor of serving them their tea, somehow managing to convey an exuberance of Anglophilic sentiment in the very act. Aziraphale, never having heard of Pinterest, still managed to get the impression that the girl, somewhere in her recent past, had kept a careful scrapbook of Britain-themed images and clippings.
He also noticed immediately that the tea tasted, well, just a bit off, but there was no universe in which he would’ve brought it up. He was a guest , after all; it simply wouldn’t do to criticize what had been so graciously served to him, no matter the vaguely sour and quite un-tea-like taste that was suffusing his tongue as he drank.
Crowley, of course, had no qualms whatsoever about speaking up after a few sips. “Oi, book girl,” he said, which annoyed Aziraphale, he knew Crowley knew her name, “there’s something up with this tea.”
Anathema took the cup from him, and sniffed at it. Her eyes went wide.
“Oh, no. Oh, no no no…” She jumped up and ran helter-skelter from the room, her long red skirt swishing around the doorway to the kitchen.
Newton looked nervous, but then again he never didn’t look nervous, so that was not nearly as alarming as Anathema’s return to the room, white-faced and horrified. “I’m so sorry,” she babbled, “we were making the tea and I’d been working on some spells in the kitchen earlier and I thought I was adding some of the lavender infusion but it must have been the other pot I took it from—”
“My dear, I’m sure it’s alright,” said Aziraphale.
“No, no, it’s not, shit, I’m sorry, it’s my fault—“
“What’s in it? What did we drink?” Crowley demanded.
Anathema swallowed. “Well,” she said, “have you ever heard of love-in-idleness? The violet draught?”
The name stirred at Aziraphale’s memory, but he couldn’t place it in the moment. He looked at Anathema quizzically, and she winced.
“Well, um, it’s a love potion, basically. Uh. Specifically, a love and lust potion…”
Aziraphale felt his jaw drop. Out of the corner of his eye, he saw Crowley undergo some kind of tectonic full-body clench.
“I was brewing a special batch for a couple who wanted to enhance their honeymoon,” Anathema continued, “but the thing is, I have no idea how it’d affect people who aren’t already, well, you know…” She gestured at the full three feet of space between Crowley and Aziraphale’s separate armchairs. “It’s, uh. Really, really strong.”
“What do we do?” Aziraphale said weakly.
“It’s not permanent,” Anathema said, avoiding eye contact. “It’ll wear off in seven days, but in the meantime...”
She looked up at the two of them, and sighed apologetically.
“You guys are gonna want to get yourselves somewhere private. Fast .”
“Anathema, are you sure that was… ethical?” Newt asked dutifully. The door had slammed shut behind Aziraphale and Crowley so loudly it had drowned out the last of Anathema’s faux-apologetic cries.
“Who cares?” cackled Anathema. “Did you see them? Their faces! That was hilarious.”
“Okay,” said Newt, “yeah, it kind of was.”
She was wearing a big, toothy grin, and her eyes glimmered with the thrill of conspiracy. It made something itch inside of Newt; he knew she knew exactly what she was doing when she looked at him like that.
“Hey,” he said, with a wiggle of an eyebrow. “We drank that tea too.”
“You’re right. We totally did,” she said, and dragged him towards the bedroom.
“What did I say? ” Crowley snapped. “I said this wouldn’t end well—“
“Oh, don’t start,” said Aziraphale automatically, not wanting to give Crowley the satisfaction, but he was at this point definitely wishing he’d not been so damnably stubborn in his insistence they both attend.
They sped off back towards London in silence, rather faster than they’d come. Aziraphale pressed his hands together tightly in his lap, worrying at his pinky ring.
Was the spell taking effect yet? Aziraphale couldn’t tell. He tried to glance sidelong at Crowley from his seat, determining if there was anything different in the way his eyes took in the side of Crowley’s face, his graceful profile cast in the shifting light of the passing landscape, the gentle curve of his lower lip, his agile neck and whip-strong arms, those clever fingers, power in their very bones, and that rich scent that followed him around, vetiver and cloves and smoke, everything precious in the world, everything he wanted, around him and on him and...
… Oh, God.
The feelings were not unfamiliar— they had been present for decades, of course, centuries even— but now they were flooding with force to the forefront of his body and mind, utterly unfettered and wholly overwhelming. His careful system of checks and balances had been dismantled in a single, terrible, tea-laden instant. He was helpless.
And by the look of his vice-tight grip around the steering wheel, and the clench of his jaw, and the way his eyes, behind his shades, were darting constantly from the road over to Aziraphale, Crowley seemed to be experiencing… well, something, at any rate.
There was simply nothing for it.
“Stop the car,” Aziraphale said, shocked at how breathless he sounded but bewitchingly unable to feel embarrassed about it. Crowley obeyed instantly, swinging the Bentley over to the gravel shoulder of the empty country road and killing the engine.
And before Aziraphale could even make a move, Crowley was closing the distance between them, throwing himself onto the angel with a fury and fierceness that was matched only by the enthusiasm with which Aziraphale met his embrace.
Little frantic yelps of mustn’t and shouldn’t and can’t echoed from somewhere deep and familiar inside his head, but whatever had been done to him by Anathema’s concoction had rendered them hilariously powerless. He kissed Crowley urgently, seeking out the perfect angle of the warm press of the demon’s mouth against his; when he found it, it was incredible.
With Crowley’s arms tight around Aziraphale it was harder to get any closer than he already was, but he had to, he wanted to, he needed to. They kissed and kissed and kept on kissing, as condensation built, unnoticed, on the windows of the car. Aziraphale could hear little sighs of pleasure coming from somewhere close at hand; initially he assumed he was the one making them, but when he realized that they were, in fact, being produced by Crowley, it was more than enough to send a hot and very human flush of sensation straight down to the core of him.
Crowley’s hands were buried deep in Aziraphale’s hair; he kept them there as he pulled away to choke out, “Aziraphale— this is— this is really— oh, shit, I’m so—”
“I know,” said Aziraphale, because he did know, they’d been warned that it was strong and it’d come on fast but he was still reeling at the intensity of it, the want he was shaking with, and the deep affection underlying it, stabilizing it, making it the most comfortable and natural thing in the world to give in to.
“Fuck,” Crowley hissed, “I need to— I need— can you please—” He grabbed one of Aziraphale’s hands with his own, and guided it down. Aziraphale moaned shamelessly when he felt the solidity of Crowley’s cock, straining underneath his zipper, and lapped hungrily at the side of Crowley’s neck while his hands scrabbled at the fastening. Freeing Crowley as bidden, Aziraphale quickly moved instinctually to his own trousers, working himself loose.
And then he had his hand around the both of them and Crowley threw his head back, breathing hard, exposing that lovely neck of his further. All the more space for Aziraphale to groan and lick into as he slid against him, shuddering with the pure physical pleasure of the friction. “Nnnn,” Crowley whimpered, and brought a finger to Aziraphale’s mouth, pushing it past his teeth and onto his tongue.
“Oh, my dear,” Aziraphale panted around Crowley’s finger, as his hand grew wet with the mingled slick of them both. Crowley was hard and close against him, shaking with what had to be the very mirror image of Aziraphale’s shock and need. There was an animal hunger guiding Aziraphale’s strokes, along with the tug of Crowley’s hand in his hair, the knock of their faces together and Crowley’s finger slipping out of Aziraphale’s mouth as he dragged his hand down to clutch at the angel’s collar.
The growing warmth of the inside of the car was making him feel utterly volcanic, as if he were Vesuvius itself. They’d both been there that day, because of course they had been, and it had not exactly been a picnic. But this, this was a different kind of heat, a joyous blaze, sparking ecstatically white inside him.
Pyroclastic, was the word that flashed across Aziraphale’s mind’s eye, when Crowley spilled hot and wet over his hand, shuddering against him, breathing, “Fuck, oh— shit, angel—” and then his hand entered the fray, doing the honors of bringing Aziraphale to his own finish, which burned him up as Crowley met his mouth with a last seeking, pressing kiss.
The magnitude of what had just occurred was not lost on Aziraphale. He’d stopped himself short of imagining anything like this for so long; it wouldn’t have been right, it simply was not to be done.
But this witchcraft had worn it all down and woken it all up. It couldn’t be undone, so he’d been told: then, it was a good thing he didn’t want it to be.
Aziraphale was not entirely clear on how they managed to make it all the way to Soho without stopping again. It might well have been a close thing, a very close thing indeed, because Crowley barely bothered to park the Bentley in anything even resembling a legal configuration before leaping out and, after gallantly getting the door for Aziraphale, hustling him inside the shop and pinning him up against the closest bookcase.
Last time Crowley had had him against a wall Aziraphale had been unable to do anything but the necessary work of stopping his eyes from looking, stopping his pulse from racing, because that was what he did, when they danced like this, when Crowley stepped forward Aziraphale stepped back, and vice versa, allowing themselves room enough for all their excuses. But the need for that kind of caution had been obviated and, in fact, made quite impossible by the mechanics of the witch’s strange magic.
He couldn’t have held back if he’d wanted to; indeed, the very concept of not wanting, such a comfortable refuge over the years, was now a foreign land that had barred him entry. So now he leaned forward and kissed Crowley with the spines of his books digging into his back, which even in the heady throes of enchantment he was able to recognize as quite the hilariously undeniable metaphor.
“I can’t believe,” Crowley gasped against Aziraphale’s cheek, their bodies flush together, “I can’t believe it’s got us like this— I can’t— nnh— turn it off— shit —”
“Please, don’t,” Aziraphale answered. “Don’t you dare even try.”
Then the two of them stumbled, leaving a trail of clothes behind them, to the sofa in the back. Aziraphale nearly toppled over onto the floor, unbalanced, in the act of trying to get Crowley down to the soft cushions, which made them both laugh with a kind of unchecked exuberance that had not been heard from either of them, in each others’ company, in all of the millennia they’d been acquainted.
“Fuck, you’re beautiful,” said Crowley, which was funny, because that’s exactly what Aziraphale was thinking about the demon himself. Every new inch of flushed and freckled skin his eyes alighted on was an unprecedented gift, perfect and beautiful and simply begging to be touched.
“Sweetest thing,” said Aziraphale, running his fingers endlessly over Crowley’s angles, the valley of his chest, the hollows of his collarbones, “oh, my darling boy, you’ve no idea how you make me feel, the things you do to me… I would have you here, now, if you would allow it—”
Aziraphale was thinking about his favorite Regency romance novels. the endless, perfectly-phrased declarations of devotion suffused with comforting inevitability, the sheer rightness of it, the knowledge that this was the only way it could’ve ended up.
And the way Crowley was handling him, gentle yet strong, forceful but gracious, called to mind the dashing heroes of the demon’s most beloved books and films, the swashbuckling swordsmen and spies who do the impossible, overcome the odds, pull it all off with style.
“ Yes ,” Crowley said, and Aziraphale didn’t need asking twice.
Aziraphale’s mouth worked its gentle, insistent magic, taking as long as he wanted to ready Crowley, until Crowley was gasping, needy as anything. “Oh, shush,” said Aziraphale, before proceeding to the main course, giving the demon the kind of seeing-to that he deserved, slow and deep and passionate.
Some time later, Crowley miracled a light blanket over top of them both and let Aziraphale wrap him in his arms. Folding himself around Crowley in the soft darkness of the aftermath, he brought his hands to right above Crowley’s heart, felt it beating.
“You’ve got. Mm. Nice hands. Really nice hands,” Crowley said, muffled slightly against the cushion where his head was resting. He sounded like he couldn’t quite believe what he was saying, and yet was happy to find himself saying it.
Aziraphale was just as surprised to find himself brushing one hand further down Crowley’s front. “And you’ve got a very nice—” he began, but Crowley cut him off with a half-shriek that sent Aziraphale into a mess of sleepy, glad giggles. Then a soft silence fell between them, but Aziraphale was sure the inside of his head was so loud it could be heard above it: Crowley, Crowley, Crowley, he could only think.
It wasn’t just sex—a love and lust potion, Anathema had said—and so in the spare moments over the next few days when they weren’t attached at the mouth or elsewhere, the compulsion found other ways to express itself.
Aziraphale was just as helpless to stop his affection from tumbling from his lips as he was to stop his eyes lingering along the length of Crowley as he moved, the urgency to know him not only by touch and smell and taste but by mapping every possible configuration of his body, memorizing it the way he memorized his favorite poems. The verses of his limbs, the enjambment of his joints, the punctuation of those gorgeous fingers, those handsome feet.
He called Crowley every pet name he could recall from centuries past, all those terms of endearment that had passed him by, overheard in conversation and correspondence. He’d saved them up unconsciously, thinking he’d never have cause to speak them himself. My sun and stars, he said, my beloved, my sweeting, poppet, my dove, dearheart, ducky, darling.
And Crowley called him angel, as he always had, but it was accompanied now by the brush of endless kisses, and the delivery of constant gifts and surprises. Crowley had always been generous, in his own sneaky, serpentine ways, but now it was as though a dam had burst. He brought flowers, he brought pastries, he somehow managed to come up with an ancient, hand-bound edition of Tui bei tu, the 7th-century Tang dynasty book of illustrated prophecies.
“Called in a favor,” he muttered. Lord, he was blushing. “It’s all yours, angel.”
“My love,” said Aziraphale, besotted beyond belief, and drew Crowley into a kiss that lasted longer than planned and proceeded to spill seamlessly into an evening of glorious debauchery.
“Anything you want,” Crowley kept saying, afterwards, every day, every hour. “I’ll get you anything you want. What do you want?”
Aziraphale sent him next door to the sex shop, where they were having a couples discount on harnesses with a buy one get one sale on edible undergarments.
On Thursday they went out to dinner; this was not unusual for them, but what was unusual was how somehow the space between them across the table seemed unbearably vast, the cream tablecloth a great desert, the place settings impassable mountains and crevasses.
Crowley’s fingers were tapping compulsively on the table as their server brought out the main course. As Aziraphale ate he felt Crowley looking at him; if not for the enchantment he would have allowed that gaze to simply rest on him, as it so often did, but now he couldn’t stop himself from bringing his own up to meet it.
More than anything else he’d done in the past few days, it felt scandalously unlike him to put his fork down with food still on the plate, but there was a much more delectable menu waiting just inches away.
He pushed his chair back and stood up; the circles of Crowley’s shades followed his movement, his face reading only confused at first and then, catching on, morphing into anticipated delight.
The single-stalled restroom was mercifully vacant. Aziraphale snapped his fingers; the lid of the toilet swung down and found itself covered with a tartan cushion. Crowley didn’t even have time to crack wise before Aziraphale was pushing him down onto the makeshift seat.
“You’re— you’re ridiculous,” was all Crowley had time to say before Aziraphale was straddling him and kissing all the stutters straight out of him.
Sometime later—it was hard to tell how long—there was an impatient rap at the door.
“We’re closed,” shouted Aziraphale automatically, as if it were the door of the bookshop being knocked on by an intrepid tourist ignoring the sign, and Crowley let out a delighted bark of a laugh before waving a hand in the door’s direction. The knocking stopped; Aziraphale could not spare a thought to what Crowley had done with the would-be intruder. He was far too occupied with Crowley's cock, taking him deep into his mouth and working his tongue until Crowley was coming hot and fast down his throat, fingernails digging into his scalp and shoulders with glorious pressure.
By the time they made it back to their table it had been long-cleared and a young Japanese couple had been seated there, feeding each other pieces of bread with fervent affection. Crowley balked at Aziraphale’s idea of interrupting them, so they wandered down the block to a chip shop and ordered something greasy and awful, and Crowley laughed himself weepy at the unseemly sight of Aziraphale sampling the four-piece chicken combo.
On Friday Aziraphale had a standing appointment in Cambridge to evaluate a set of 14th-century Sephardic illuminations. He was due in at ten, but he was very nearly late for his train because he simply couldn’t bear to tear himself away from Crowley.
“I don’t want to leave you,” he said, half-choked, his face buried in Crowley’s shoulder and interlacing his fingers with the demon’s at his side. Nevermind the hundreds of years he’d gone without seeing scale nor smile of Crowley in the past— the idea of Crowley not being at his side for mere half-day was now threatening to rend him into pieces.
“So don’t go,” Crowley said fiercely. “Can you stay? Please, stay. I’ll get us takeaway. You can read to me— well, I had this idea that I could suck you off while you read to me, and we can bet on how many pages it’ll take before you can’t speak—”
Aziraphale sniffed miserably and shook his head. “I promised Dr. Sutcliffe weeks ago I’d help with this,” he said. “I simply can’t go back on my word. I swear, I’ll be as quick as I can with it.”
When he got back to the bookshop that evening, having selfishly miracled the train into an express and sent quite a few fellow passengers scrambling for transfers, he walked into the bookshop and found the most incredible scene waiting for him.
Crowley had set a film projector up in amidst a nest of blankets in the center of the shop, shining onto the wall, and a little tray off to the side held wine and cheese. Crowley himself was lying in the pillows, and motioning Aziraphale to join him.
It was a film Aziraphale had never seen before; Crowley had given up on taking him to the cinema sometime in the early 80s, and this had come out after that, so by the end of it when the lovers were reunited, only having eyes for each other, tears were welling up in his eyes for the second time that day.
“Oh, it’s about old friends,” Aziraphale said, his hand finding Crowley’s and pressing it to his mouth.
“It always is,” answered Crowley.
The credits rolled, but they didn’t notice, due to the fact that they were busy kissing again.
“I wonder how they’re doing,” Newt said, late on Thursday night. “Aziraphale and Crowley, I mean.”
“Probably having just as much fun as us,” Anathema answered, squeezing lube into the palm of her hand and applying it, while Newt watched eagerly, to her second-favorite strap-on.
“You really think so?”
“Don’t you trust me?” answered Anathema with a sly smile, positioning herself above him. Her long hair was swept up practically into a loose bun at the base of her neck— she hated when it got in the way. Newt was still working up the courage to ask if she could leave some of it down so he could suck on it while she fucked him. Maybe next time.
“Of— of course,” said Newt, now eyeing Anathema’s hands as she secured the harness. “But if you’re right, it must be mad for them. I mean, think of the inertia— oh !” His voice stuttered out as Anathema teased him with the tip of the dildo.
“Inertia. Go on,” said Anathema sternly.
“Well, you know,” he said, “it’s hard to get yourself out of a path you’ve been locked into, and once it's done, everything changes.”
“I see what you mean,” she said. “Belonging to certain sides for so long, having certain expectations…”
“Right. Like, imagine if you’d been a professional descendant for thousands of years instead of twenty-two.”
Anathema sighed. “It was hard enough to adjust as it was. I guess I’m lucky I had you to help me get free of it all. Sometimes, all you need is a little…” —and here she ran a sharp, black-lacquered fingernail down the comically pale curve of the side of Newt’s ass— “... push.”
Newt cried out as she slid in with an elegant thrust, grabbing at her thighs, and she leaned over him and whispered something into his ear, giving rise to a moan from him that had to be one of her favorite sounds in the world.
“I’ve loved you forever,” Crowley murmured into Aziraphale’s ear as they lay in the darkness. The bed in Crowley’s flat was wide, sheeted in black silk, cool against Aziraphale’s skin, the gentle reverse of the demon’s warmth, balancing it all out to a state of impossibly pure physical comfort. “Even when I didn’t know it. Even when I didn’t want to. I always did.”
Perhaps if Aziraphale had been told this a week ago he wouldn’t have dared believe it, wouldn’t have let himself even hear it, but with that very same love coursing through his enspelled corporation it was impossible to not let himself sink into the apparent truth of it.
It would have been easier to worry if Crowley had seemed blatantly enchanted or ensorcelled somehow— but in his every word and action he seemed, to Aziraphale, like he’d never been more utterly himself. It was a heightening, an enhancement, of everything Aziraphale had known to be true about Crowley; his cleverness, his bravery, his curiosity and commitment.
There was nothing to fear. Not when he loved Crowley, and Crowley loved him.
Ah, but still— thousands of years of indulging in one’s anxieties could not be fully done away with by a spell, no matter how strong.
“Crowley, dearest,” Aziraphale whispered now, “what’s… what’s going to happen?”
“When it wears off?” Crowley said. Aziraphale shifted in his arms uncomfortably; the speed at which Crowley had made the leap to Aziraphale’s line of thought surely meant Crowley had been thinking about it too. “I don’t know,” admitted Crowley. “But we’ll handle, angel. I’m not going anywhere. I swear.”
His confidence should have been reassuring, and in a sense it was, but simultaneously it served to make Aziraphale even more uneasy. What if the spell wore off Crowley first, and Aziraphale was left in the throes of passion with no recourse for relief? What if— unthinkably— it wore off of him, and he didn’t feel the same way as he did right now? It made him unconscionably angry to think about, the very idea that there could be some future version of himself that loved Crowley any less than he did at that very moment, which is to say: with all of his ethereal soul, and all of his earthly body.
He let the demon snuggle close to him in the darkness and ran his fingers through that soft red hair, and allowed the spell to dissolve away his worries once more.
The next morning dawned wet and cool, and they were strolling, arm in arm, walking from Crowley’s flat to the bookshop after taking care of the plants. It was lightly drizzling; a stronger rain had fallen overnight, and shining puddles lined the gutters of Mayfair, reflecting the whitewashed flats and leafy trees of the neighborhood, silver mirrors every few feet along their path.
It was all rather picturesque, at least until a lorry drove by at great speed, sending a crest of cold, dirty water over Aziraphale and Crowley on the pavement, soaking them to the bone.
“This city is getting on my nerves,” groused Crowley, as he miracled away the soak from the both of them. Aziraphale found himself unexpectedly agreeing; he loved London more than he had a right to, and always rather would, but it was simply so much these days. So many things tugging him away from where he wanted to be, which was by Crowley’s side, always.
“If we lived elsewhere,” Aziraphale mused, “perhaps we’d have fewer… distractions.”
“Huh,” said Crowley. “You might be onto something.” And he pointed, with a grin, to something behind Aziraphale.
Aziraphale slowly turned his head, to see what Crowley was seeing, and then he smiled too.
Helen Szylagi was not having a good day. Her boss was out, and the receptionist was also out, and the worst bit of was they were out together, doing unspeakable things in a suite at Claridges and leaving Helen with masses of paperwork and ringing phones.
And it was raining, and her knees ached, and she felt an awful cold coming on. She just wanted to be curled up on the sofa in her flat with a cuppa watching a panel show, but for whatever reason the clocks were simply refusing to move forward at an adequate pace, and she was due to be stuck in the stuffy storefront office of MacDowell Properties for another five hours yet.
When the door swung open to admit two men in from the drizzle, she groaned internally. Being the only one in the office meant she was the one that would have to deal with them, and she was in the middle of a very juicy article about the latest WAG scandal.
They looked insufferable already, and they hadn’t even opened their mouths. She hated the kind of punters who walked in off the street to inquire after properties they couldn’t possibly afford, just to waste her time.
“Hi! Can I help you?” she said, attempting bright but coming off more snippy .
“The one on the front window there,” said the shorter one, who looked like a sofa in human form. “It’s darling, isn’t it?”
“The Amberley property?” Helen said, suppressing a sigh. The Amberley property was two point five million quid and, yes, unbelievably darling. When setting up the listings page on the MacDowell’s website a few days ago she’d taken much more time than usual, lingering over the gorgeous shots of the rustic interior, the updated kitchen, the inbuilt mahogany shelves in the library and the lovely back garden.
“That’s the one,” said the taller one, who Helen assumed had joined a covers band in 1993 and was under the impression he was still onstage.
“Well, it’s still on the market,” said Helen, beginning what was meant to be her usual spiel, but as she spoke she watched the dark one slip his hand into the blonde one’s, pulling him close, and then as she went on the blonde one nuzzled his head into the black fabric of his partner’s shoulder, and something inside her shifted, and she trailed off in the middle of a sentence about the cottage’s refurbished master bathroom, unable to handle the waves of love radiating off the pair in front of her. All snarky thoughts of how they didn’t look like the kind of people who could afford the place vanished from her head, replaced by a frantic desire to get them that cottage by any means necessary— or else what was the point of her?
“Sounds perfect, doesn’t it, angel?” the tall one supplied into the silence, and the short one batted his big eyes up at him with such affection Helen would’ve toppled over if she hadn’t been sitting down. “It really does, dear,” he said.
An hour later she was befuddled as she’d ever been, finding herself drawing up the purchase contract for one Anthony J. Crowley and A. Z. Fell to take immediate ownership of the Amberley property, for a price so far below asking that she ought to have lost her license right then and there.
“ Thank you,” said the blonde one, Mr. Fell, as she pushed the paperwork across the table to sign. “Really, so lovely of you to help like this.”
“S’fine,” she mumbled, “no problem at all,” and Mr. Crowley flashed her a smile so dangerously pleased she was surprised he didn’t start to float up towards the ceiling like Ed Wynn.
After they’d gone, Helen couldn’t see the use in staying until the end of her shift. She went home and turned on the TV, and her knees didn’t hurt, and her oncoming cold had gone, and she found herself unerringly certain, against all reason, that she was about to have a very good week indeed.
When the doorbell rang on Wednesday morning, nine days after the initial visit, Anathema Device was in the middle of a tarot reading for Mrs. Lehigh down the lane. She wasn’t looking forward to telling the poor dear that her cat Jupiter was not, in fact, lost or dead, but had been adopted by the Hendersons across town, who’d assumed she was a stray.
Smoothing down the front of her cerulean silk dress, she got up to answer the door, and wasn’t entirely surprised to see the angel and the demon, looking altogether flushed and frantic.
“Hi, guys,” she said, and before she’d even thought of what to say to them, Crowley swept past her into the cottage’s front room, and then whirled on his heel to face her. Aziraphale quickly followed to stand by his side; she watched with barely concealed delight as the angel’s hand found Crowley’s and held it tight.
“Anathema Device,” Crowley said, in a tone that she figured was his attempt at demonic but came out more or less uncomfortably paternal , “you have some explaining to do.”
“What’s going on?” Newt said, appearing in the doorway to the kitchen, wearing a dark denim apron covered in splotches of flour.
“It’s not wearing off, ” Aziraphale said urgently. “The love spell. The potion. Whatever you’ve done, we— we’re still feeling its, er, effects, and you did say a week—”
“It’s getting ridiculous, ” said Crowley. “We— we bought a house together! ”
“A house!” Aziraphale added, for emphasis. “And— and the physical elements, they seem to be increasing in intensity, if anything! I haven’t opened the shop for more than forty-five minutes in the last nine days. Cumulatively! ”
There was a beat, as Anathema looked over Aziraphale’s shoulder to where Newt was standing. Then their eyes met and they both burst into uncontrollable, hysterical laughter.
“What? What —” Crowley hissed desperately, head twisting from Anathema to Newt and back again.
Aziraphale blustered, “Good lord, this is not a laughing matter, this is serious —”
“Oh my god,” Anathema said, through wheezes, “you haven’t figured it out yet?”
They very clearly had not. They looked at each other, utterly bewildered, as Newt and Anathema continued to hoot and howl, and then Crowley snapped, “Is someone going to explain what the bloody hell is going on?”
Anathema wiped gently at her undereyes, mindful of her mascara, before saying, “Aziraphale. Crowley. Guys. There was no love potion .”
“That’s not even a real thing,” Newt put in, still giggling.
“Literally not even a thing, at all,” said Anathema, “but I guess I can’t imagine you’ve ever needed to be in a position to learn about the basic capabilities of human magic...”
“ What?” said Crowley.
“Not— not real—? But, but—” Aziraphale stammered, uncomprehending.
“Then— then how— how did we—” Crowley croaked, staring down at his and Aziraphale’s joined hands, as though only now realizing they’d been clasped together. He did not, however, move to separate them.
“It was an excuse,” Anathema said plainly. “All you needed was an excuse. And I gave it to you. Sorry not sorry— I mean, what was I meant to do?”
Crowley’s mouth opened and closed a few times in Anathema’s direction, then turned his gaze to Aziraphale. “So— so you really do—?”
“Oh, Crowley, you mean, you —” gasped Aziraphale. “It was all really—? Oh, my—”
And then, seemingly incapable of speech, they were embracing each other, nearly collapsing in lovelorn relief.
Anathema had to admit, this was a much more grand finale than she could’ve ever imagined. God, nine days of nonstop… whatever they were doing? As they rearranged themselves into a passionate kiss, she began spinning theories out in her head, positioning the experimental data against her hypothesis. She supposed the sheer level of repression involved had engendered an equal and opposite reaction, as it were...
Well, getting them together was all well and good, but this was getting a little too voyeuristic for her tastes now. Tongues were happening, in her entryway. She cleared her throat loudly, and they drew apart with an embarrassed little jolt.
She led them to the parlor, where they sat down, reenacting the scene of the crime but in reverse. This time Newt and Anathema took the armchairs, and Aziraphale and Crowley were sitting with not an inch between them on the sofa.
“But how could you know exactly what would happen?” Aziraphale was saying, brow furrowed.
Anathema rolled her eyes. “You’re talking to the direct descendant of Agnes Nutter here.”
“Oh. That’s right. I’d forgotten.”
“And you’ll notice she was very vague about the actual effects,” Newt said.
“So that we’d make it into whatever we needed it to be,” said Crowley wonderingly, a note of grudging respect entering his voice.
“But— but Crowley, my dear, I can’t believe this!” Aziraphale said, turning to Crowley in delayed indignation. “We were just their… their Pavlov? Their trained dog?”
“Aziraphale, Pavlov was not the name of the dog,” Crowley said, pressing his fingertips to the bridge of his nose, but a fond smile played at the edges of his mouth.
“You have a right to be angry,” Newt said, instinctively playing the mediator.
Anathema scoffed. “No they don’t! Come on, look at them!”
And she was right. Seeing them next to each other, close and free and together, it was impossible to argue against the steps that had been taken.
“Hold on,” said Crowley now, holding up a finger. “Hold on . If the potion wasn’t real— then why did the tea taste like that?!”
“Ah,” said Newt wisely, “I added some soap. Just to make you suspicious.”
“Eugh,” said Crowley, flicking his tongue out in disgust, and Aziraphale grimaced too.
“Isn’t he a smart cookie?” Anathema said proudly.
There was a shrill ding from the kitchen. “Oh!” exclaimed Newt. “Speaking of cookies, the beignets are ready.” He looked at the angel and the demon, certainly in love but also, rather exhausted by recent revelations. “If you don’t mind me saying, I think you two could really use some carbohydrates.”
Aziraphale kept his mouth occupied with various Newtonian baked offerings on the way home. He had to admit, the boy did have a way with pastry.
“Well,” said Crowley, as they reentered the bookshop. “Now that that’s sorted. I mean. We don’t need to keep that level of— of intimacy up, you know—”
Aziraphale nodded, closing the door behind him. “Yes, well, of course not. A more... sedate course would surely be appropriate at this juncture...”
The silence between them hung solemnly and strangely for only a moment before turning into something thicker, warmer, and altogether more familiar.
Finally, Crowley shook his head. “Oh, fuck that shit."
“Agreed,” said Aziraphale, and he would’ve said more, but Crowley had stopped his mouth, and he didn’t mind at all.