Six months later
With a feat of great dexterity, Crowley managed to slide the latch on the patio door, pushing it open with one elbow without spilling a drop of either of the mugs on the tray. The chilly evening air washed in, making him shiver, but he stepped outside anyway.
Gravel crunched underfoot as he approached the sprawling curve of the wicker couch and its occupant.
In the end, he hadn’t gone for a terrace. Instead, they had a flag-stoned patio with a round firepit, where flames danced and snapped, fragrant smoke spiralling up towards the sky. The couch curled around it with enough light and warmth for the man seated there with a book.
“Book down!” Crowley instructed, as he rounded the end of the couch. “It’s sampling time!”
Aziraphale glanced up with a smile and marked his place – of course he sodding did – with a thin leather bookmark. “You should’ve said. I would have come and opened the door for you.”
“I can manage things on my own,” Crowley teased, sitting down beside him.
The expression Aziraphale made might’ve been called a doubtful out on anyone else. “Hm.”
“Oh, shut it,” Crowley snorted, grinning.
Six months since they’d met, five since he’d taken ownership of the house and three since he’d asked Aziraphale to move in with him and he was still waiting for the shoe to drop. They were… good. Everything was good. He’d never been in a relationship where it stayed good, where they laughed and teased and joked just as much as they had in the first days.
That wasn’t to say they hadn’t argued.
Setting up house with someone always was a risky business, especially when one half the couple had a collection of books to make the library of Alexandria blush. Especially when it turned out said person also tended to read wherever he was, shedding half-finished books on any available surface like autumn leaves.
Part of it, Crowley could guess, was still push back against his old life. From the pictures Aziraphale had shown him of the flat he’d lived in in New York, everything was pristine and shiny and white and about as personal as a brand new show home. If he wanted to leave books lying around and be a messy sod, then he could, but to a degree. Especially a degree that didn’t mean tripping over a stack and breaking your neck.
Ground rules helped, specifically no sodding books in the kitchen, or else yes, they’re going to get stuff spilled on them, all right? Likewise, only books on the specifically designated shelf in the bathroom for exactly the same reason. Otherwise, the bedroom, living room and Aziraphale’s sprawling study in the loft conversion were all fair game.
All the same, Crowley had ended up with a stupid fat grin all over his face the day he found a forgotten paperback on one of the ledges in his new greenhouse from an afternoon when Aziraphale had sat and watched him working on his seedlings and cuttings.
And it had been such a blessing to have Aziraphale around when it felt like everything was going to shit and they had to rip out a cluster of diseased trees.
Turned out that while he got flustered over his own problems, as soon as Aziraphale saw someone he cared about in distress, he turned into a stone-cold professional. He calmed, he reassured, he made all the necessary calls and arrangements, and they only lost maybe a dozen trees out of a couple of hundred.
Which was why they were able to sit out on their terrace and celebrate with a steaming mug of cider brewed from their very first apple crop.
“I’m still not sure about the cinnamon ratio,” Crowley warned, handing one of the mugs over.
“No such thing as too much,” Aziraphale said happily, lifting the broad, thick blanket to allow Crowley to slip in beside him.
“Beg to differ,” Crowley said. “I remember that god-awful pie.”
Aziraphale huffed. “In my defence, I’d never made one before and the recipe did say cover generously with cinnamon.” He chuckled. “Though I will agree the whole jar was definitely excessive. And your face. I wish I had taken a picture.”
Crowley nestled comfortably against him, toeing his shoes off and pulling his legs up onto the couch. “To an appropriate amount of cinnamon,” he said, tapping his mug against Aziraphale’s.
Aziraphale gave him such a fond, doting look that his toes curled. “To an appropriate amount of cinnamon.”
And under the blanket of night, the only sound the crackle of the fire, they shared the cider and watched the stars brighten the sky.