Actions

Work Header

Without Creativity

Work Text:

Title: Without Creativity
Author: htebazytook
Rating: NC-17
Disclaimer: <—
Pairings: Crowley/Aziraphale
Author's Notes: There I was, innocently watching Star Trek when Kirk sprung this one on me: "Without freedom of choice, there is no creativity. Without creativity, there is no life." I had to.
Summary: Another Crowley and Aziraphale through the ages fic, with some heavy symbolism thrown in for good measure.

 

 

1054

Sunlight is like a taste to Aziraphale, that brilliant flashback of memory that comes when you bite into a certain fruit or smell a certain flower. The same went for sunlight.

There had been nothing like the sun or the moon in the old days (the old old days, back before there were days at all). No night or day, only existence, and although Aziraphale's hard pressed to describe what that had actually been like, 'metaphysical' comes close. He remembers feeling safe, he remembers being utterly free of doubt and anger and all of those other negative feelings that hadn't been invented yet.

Not every angel had been there for the first sunrise. Aziraphale had. Crowley may have been. And the guards at the other gates of course.

But when that initial deep amber slice of light had crept up over the horizon, splashing the trees haphazardly and racing through the new green grass, Aziraphale had at first been anxious (which he'd never been, before), fearing some renewed assault from the rebels and clutching the pommel (was that what it was called?) of his sword—he'd never used it and it would be just his luck to be the only casualty after the rebellion.

He watched the approach of the quickening light, hues morphing and deepening as it grew while a sliver of pure bright fire burst over the horizon. It was a startling sight to behold, mainly because Aziraphale still hadn't got the hang of distance, this strange new notion of time and relative dimension in space.

What would happen when the sunlight reached him? It was fire, possibly hellfire, but it did no harm to the living things it had painted along its path thus far. It was encroaching, though, and Aziraphale didn't know how to stop it. He made no move to draw his sword or flee or any of it, and it wasn't because of honor or out of sheer bravery, it was because of fear and wonder and terror and the breathtaking beauty of the scene before him. So unrealistically beautiful that it had to be an infernal deceit of some kind. The grass before Aziraphale's feet was soaking in golds and oranges, now, and it was much too late to run.

The sunlight hit him and he closed his eyes . . .

One peeled open after a silent minute and was promptly blinded by the ball of fire now hanging low in the sky. Aziraphale panicked briefly, thinking it some underhanded trick of Lucifer's, after all—seemed right up his alley with the whole epic blast of light angle—but after blinking a few times the black spots in his vision cleared and the garden was simply saturated in yellow light, and comforting warmth seeped through his newly tangible skin.

That feeling of relief is what he remembers when the sun rises.

In his modest house around the corner from the forum, Aziraphale sighs and sips his tea as the latest of sunrises beyond count slowly fills the room.

"At it again, angel?"

Aziraphale jumps. He wonders if Crowley realizes he sticks out like a sore thumb wearing those flashy modern clothes of his, or if he just doesn't care. "Good morning," Aziraphale says cordially.

Crowley snorts and lets himself in, quite without being invited. Little has changed since their last meeting, then. Well, except for the dark tinted lenses covering his eyes. "You do know what's going to happen, don't you? There will come a century where tea won't be quite so easy to get your caffeine addicted hands on. You're probably gonna start empires and wars and all sorts of ugly things just to get your fix."

Oh, and Aziraphale had so hoped they were past all this. Really things had been increasingly civil between them, son of God turning up in their neck of the woods notwithstanding. "Is that why you've maintained a foothold in India all these years?"

Crowley shrugs. "Well, they dig the eyes. They don't, for instance, cast me out of their villages with pitchforks when they see me without, you know." He points smugly at his face. It's odd to talk to Crowley while missing half of his expression. He had a fantastic straight face, but his eyes he had more trouble reigning in, and Aziraphale could always read exactly what he was really thinking in them. He supposes it's a residual angelic trait, as though every other fiber of the demon's being was capable of deceit, but never his eyes, no matter how startling or otherworldly they were. And they aren't that frightening anymore, honestly. You got used to them.

Sunlight floods the room. It's just peeked over the forum. Crowley grimaces and pushes his glasses up.

Aziraphale can't find it in himself to care, too busy basking. "I suppose you prefer dark moonless nights to, to partake in your . . . Satanic rituals or . . . oh, whatever it is you people do."

"I don't like the dark. Nobody likes the dark."

"Oh." Aziraphale gets the feeling he's crossed a line here, but that couldn't be right. "I, er, would've thought if anyone did it would be a demon, surely?"

Crowley laughs. "You wouldn't understand."

"Try me."

Crowley rolls his eyes, probably. "Look, I can see just fine the dark." He gestures at his tinted lenses. "My eyes are sensitive to light. Not so much with the moon, though. I don't need to use, you know, demon night vision or whatever when the moon's out. Or sunglasses. Sunlight just reminds me, like . . . I dunno. It's nice not to have to work so hard to see properly, is all."

" 'Sunglasses'?" The taste of the word puts Aziraphale off a bit.

"Yes. Well, eventually."

"So," Aziraphale says. "What brings you back to Rome? If it's something I've got to thwart you over, would you do me a favor and just not mention it? I'm really not in the mood."

"It is. Well, a bit." He takes it upon himself to sit down in the chair adjacent to Aziraphale, which Aziraphale blinks pointedly at, but Crowley doesn't care. He looks out the window and taps his fingers on the arm of the chair as he speaks and makes Aziraphale wonder if he ever stopped worrying. It couldn't be good for him. Not that demons could be good, but . . . "Listen, give it to me straight, because I'm sick of playing these stupid games with you. Is this Byzantine business your side, or what? 'Cause I'm telling you right now, it's definitely not us. At least, it's not me."

Aziraphale sips his tea, watches Crowley and tries to keep his paranoid aura from rubbing off on him. "Why do you ask?"

"Well, you know." Crowley sighs, and it feels so genuine that Aziraphale is quite certain Crowley's trying to manipulate him, somehow. "I'd just prefer not to get in your way about it if it is your current project, if only to avoid the inevitable whining."

"I do not whine, Crowley." Aziraphale draws himself up. "I am a soldier in His army."

Crowley snorts. "Sure you are. Remind me again what happened the last time they let you have a sword?"

Aziraphale sets his tea down precisely. "How could I forget what wonderful company you are? Are you quite finished?"

"Oh simmer down, angel. You're always so touchy, which is a bit telling if you ask me . . . "

Aziraphale opens his mouth to speak again—

"Okay okay, sorry." Crowley clasps his hands together in his lap to stop them fidgeting. "I thought we were doing better, you know." Looks at Aziraphale over his sunglasses and Aziraphale wants so badly to believe his means it. It looks like it and feels like it, but you had to remember this was Crowley's job. More than that—it was his nature.

"Yes, well." Aziraphale relaxes into his chair again. "So had I, actually. And no, in answer to your question—this issue between Rome and the Byzantines is all human." He sighs. "Why do they always have to make everything so complicated? What He wants is very simple, really. You think sending the Messiah down would've brought people together—he preached it, didn't he?"

"If you say so." Crowley had stayed well away from the land of milk and honey back then, and Aziraphale suspected he'd done so against orders. "You know people—they're going to do what they want no matter what, and ideologies are little more than convenient fads to back them up. Up above they don't get that. Or down below, for that matter."

"So you're saying that they don't necessarily want to split the church down the middle—they just hate one another, and they're always going to, no matter what. People change, you know." Aziraphale sees his point, though.

"Sometimes. They don't usually live long enough for that, though."

Aziraphale looks at Crowley—really looks at him. He's changed, maybe. Or maybe he's always been the way he is now. Or maybe he's always been the way he was before he was called Crawly. Aziraphale wants to believe that, a bit, but on the other hand Crowley's demonicness was reliable. He could always count on Crowley to say something distressingly callous or cruel or just plain rude, eventually. He has the same artistically unkempt hair, the same perpetually stoic face and slightly downturned mouth, the same jittery, restless demeanor.

"Why are you really here, Crowley?"

Hint of a smile at the corners of Crowley's sad mouth. "I figure you're probably as tired as I am of creating conflicts just for the sake of having something to report. And, clearly, humans have absolutely no trouble fighting amongst themselves. I can't tell you how many times I've been credited for things I didn't do, and I know it's the same with you. So can we just, I dunno, cool it on the thwarting, moving forward?"

Aziraphale laughs, but it doesn't come out as sharply as he'd meant it to. "An interesting notion, but that would of course require you to 'cool it' on the, what is it you call it—"

"Wiling. I wile, you thwart. It is known."

"Yes, well." Aziraphale nods. This has got to be a wile, right here. "You would have to stop doing it, you see."

"Fine by me."

Aziraphale nods again to cover his surprise, like that gives him control of the situation. But he quickly caves and says, "It's settled then," anyway.

*

1242

Crowley wishes, just once, that Aziraphale would let himself get drunk. He was going to have to work on that.

The angel is eying him suspiciously across the table, hand gripping his mug of ale like he's ready to use it as a weapon at any moment, or maybe that's just Crowley's anti-angelic instincts kicking in. Aziraphale hasn't tried to eviscerate him for years, and he hasn't succeeded in centuries.

"Anything else besides this little band of savages, then?"

"Mongols," Crowley corrects. "Not little. Definitely savage, though."

"Right," Aziraphale says, relaxing a bit in his seat. Crowley thinks he'd insisted on meeting in a tavern because it was the closest to a neutral space that they could get—it was certainly the most human. It was refreshing not to be subjected to Aziraphale's oppressively hypocritical residences, which were always plain enough to look humble but tended to have only the best and most expensive of everything. "So we can stop talking business," Aziraphale says, and he seems as relieved as Crowley is. Ha, he'd known Aziraphale was just as weary of thwarting him.

"And talk about what, instead, pray tell? Pleasure?" Crowley makes sure to smile lasciviously to make up for his hidden eyes.

Aziraphale rolls his, which is something else Crowley misses from his own sarcastic repertoire, but really being burned at the stake every couple of years had got old fast. "Must you be so uncouth?"

"Oh, yes," Crowley purrs. "Must you be such a prude? Sex is perfectly natural."

"For you, maybe."

Crowley holds his hands up placatingly. "Hey, look, it wasn't a choice," Crowley says. "File a complaint with the big man upstairs about it if I've offended your delicate sensibilities."

"It's just irresponsible, Crowley." Crowley laughs, but can't get a word in. "Messing humans about is one thing, but corrupting innocent women across the globe just because you can is needlessly excessive."

"I think I heard a compliment about my excellent powers of seduction in there," Crowley muses. Aziraphale huffs. "And for your information, I do not 'corrupt innocent women'. I can barely talk to women."

Aziraphale snorts. "Shy, are you? Find the fairer sex intimidating?"

"You should probably know that was a bit sexist, angel. And no. I'm not shy. Just look at this body." He stretches out luxuriously, smirks when he catches Aziraphale eying him up before he catches himself and retreats to his ale. "Women find me intimidating. They've always hated me. I expect they've got a sixth sense about it thanks to your fearless leader. Well congrats, you'll not find any of my, well, whatever the demonic version of Nephillim is running about conquering Europe. Just Mongols, and you have to admit they are quite impressive."

Aziraphale is just terribly smug, which is hilarious to watch. "Yes, well. We'll see."

"You shouldn't be so cavalier about this, you know," Crowley advises. He likes a good conquest as much as the next demon, but really Aziraphale ought to be more prepared for the forces encroaching on his stomping grounds. "You'd do well to start mobilizing these lazy Christians."

"Really, Crowley, my side doesn't condone violence."

Crowley almost spits out his ale, but the look on Aziraphale's face is worth it. "Don't make me get out my list."

"I said that we don't condone it. And we certainly don't create it."

Crowley makes a show of rummaging through his pockets. "I've got it here, somewhere . . ."

"Crowley, you and I can influence and miracle all we want, but we aren't capable of technically creating anything."

Crowley frowns, because clearly he hasn't been following the conversation closely enough. They were on to the philosophizing portion of the program, now? "I dunno about you but I've created plenty in my time, or do door-to-door purveyors of wares not count?"

Aziraphale just clears his throat primly, prepared to change the subject and ignore him, which makes Crowley have to keep pressing:

"So we're not technically living, is that it?" Crowley gestures around. "What do you call this?" He'd thought Aziraphale was on the same page, here, and he hated being reminded of what a mindless cookie cutter angel he really was.

"Well . . . Crowley, you know I can't call it anything."

"Psh. Stop worrying—I'm not gonna tattle on you. You really do need to lighten up. Better to party in hell . . ."

"Than be bored out of one's mind in heaven?"

Crowley gives him a significant look.

Aziraphale shifts uncomfortably.

"Oh come on, you don't have to tell me—I know how bloody boring heaven is, remember? Hell isn't much better, though, if you really wanna know. It's never boring, in the worst way possible."

Aziraphale laughs. "Everything is equal and opposite, is it? One needs the other to even exist in the first place?"

"That . . . is your side's doctrine."

"Not really. Everything we do is to postpone the inevitable war, just like you."

"So we're not so different, you and me, heaven and hell. That what you're saying?"

"It's a bit like that Chinese philosophy, what's-it-called," Aziraphale evades. "You’re the darker half, of course."

"That one's the feminine energy, isn't it?" If Crowley didn't know any better he'd say Aziraphale was smirking. "Maybe women hate me because I'm beating them at their own girlish game."

"Well, they do tend to harbor considerable antagonism toward one another," Aziraphale says, but Crowley can tell he's just being an arse, which he feels not so much offended by as victorious about. "God only knows why."

Crowley sneezes. "Again with the sexism." He tries to glare at the same time, which is met with limited success.

"Bless you," Aziraphale says sweetly.

Crowley sneezes again. "Not helping."

*

1519

"Are you even listening to me, Aziraphale?" Crowley is saying from across the table, and really, do they ever meet anywhere without an alcohol supply? It's probably for the best that they don't, but Aziraphale feels sure he should probably frown on it a little more than he actually did. "Hellooo?" Crowley waves his hand in front of Aziraphale's face.

Aziraphale stops looking out the window. "It's a lovely morning," he says.

"This Martin Luther bloke isn't going away any time soon, you know, and you really ought to pay . . more . . . " Crowley trails off. "Hang on . . ."

Oh dear, that enormous grin on Crowley's face was no good at all. It was the one he used when he was deeply terrified, and the last time Aziraphale had seen it was when they'd run into Dante Alighieri at the piazza. Aziraphale suspected Crowley was in the middle of a gradual nervous breakdown, but then again he probably always had been.

"Don't panic," Crowley says, and doesn't seem interested in following his own advice. "Two demons just walked in, and we're not going to panic."

"Of course not," Aziraphale says reassuringly. Crowley is sweating. Aziraphale isn't afraid of demons, not even more, well, traditional demons.

Crowley's face is stuck on a grin that by now looks more like a grimace. "Fuck. I just knew this was too good to be true. Of course we're going to get audited as soon as there's something to audit."

"Crowley." Aziraphale takes his hand, which is tapping borderline violently on the table. "I like our arrangement. And don't you think it would be rather worse if some representatives from my side showed up? At least with you, you can always say you're corrupting me."

"You mean I'm not?" Crowley's gone back to being obnoxious, which has got to be a good sign.

"Crawly? That you?" The demons approach, and Aziraphale is surprised everyone in the tavern doesn't instantly know they are demons. They're skulking about like anything.

"Ah yes, good to see you both," Crowley says. "And you are . . . ?"

"What you doing up here, then, Crawly?"

"Oh, you know, business meeting. Going over quarterly figures, this and that . . ."

"What you doing up here on Earth, I should say?"

"Well, we just fancied a bit of fresh air," Aziraphale pipes up. "You know how it is in Our Dark Lord's domain, simply appallingly musty." He really wishes Crowley would stop looking so frantic.

"Sorry, didn't catch your name?" the shorter demon says suspiciously.

"Oh my, how terribly rude of me, I'm Az—"

"Azrael," Crowley blurts.

The other demons stare. "No, it's not . . . "

"Oh, well, yeah, just a little nickname he goes by up here," Crowley laughs.

The taller demon considers this. "Well, considering the likes of you been insisting on a nickname for absolute æons, suppose it makes sense. This an Earth thing?"

"Oh yeah, it's all the rage," Crowley assures. Aziraphale thinks that, for a demon, he's an awfully bad liar.

The taller demon turns on Aziraphale. "Now, don't take us the wrong way, Azrael, but you feels a little . . . how should I put it . . . ?"

"Holy," his companion finishes, looking more suspicious by the minute.

Crowley starts to laugh nervously so Aziraphale has to say, "Oh yes, well, it's my cover, you know. This way I can infiltrate those nasty old churches and tempt and you know, and, just, demony stuff. All hail Satan, to you and yours." He beams.

Across the table, Crowley's is attempting to disappear into his chair.

The taller demon glances between them "Right . . . we'd better get on going. All hail Satan."

Crowley looks visibly shaken long after they've left. "I don't get on with other demons, okay? Look, can we just drop this, already?" Aziraphale drops it, but he's unnerved by this new, vulnerable side of Crowley that keeps coming out. Because of their arrangement? God only knew.

Aziraphale isn't sure about the whole 'not so different' thing, but he's never got along with other angels, so he can sympathize with that, at least.

*

1815

Aziraphale's voice is grating—it had that sort of constant singsong quality that came with customer service jobs. And really what were angels but glorified customer service reps, anyway? Aziraphale always sounded like he was lying, though he insisted he wasn't even capable of it. Crowley knew that was a lie. Angels had lied all the time in heaven, even the big names, and especially the big names.

"Oh really, can we please call this one even and have done?"

"No, Aziraphale. Huh. Just a few years ago you were begging me to let you take credit for Napoleon. Oh, how the tables have turned."

Aziraphale comes very close to glaring, manages to hide it behind a cup of tea. He clears his throat pointedly. "Obviously I have to support democracy, Crowley."

Crowley raises his eyebrows. "Sorry, obviously? Whatever happened to divine right?"

"The philosophy of a bygone era, I'm afraid . . ."

"Nope."

"Oh, you think you're so clever," Aziraphale snaps. "Twisting my words around with your, with your wily demonic ways. Well I'm not falling for it."

Crowley just blinks at him. "You're actually insane, you know that? I sometimes wonder if you have legitimate multiple personalities, I really do."

Aziraphale sighs, cools off and looks a little guilty, which he should for trying to pawn failed heavenly initiatives off on him just because it was convenient. "I honestly don't know what I'm supposed to do about George."

"The nutter, or the other nutter?"

"It's the one with all the power now I'm more worried about, to be honest."

"Well, don't look at me, you're the one in residence on this miserable little island. Tell me, does it ever get warm here?" Crowley wonders why he hadn't made Aziraphale meet him somewhere more tropical to go over their quotas. "Why have you stayed here so long, anyway?

Aziraphale shrugs. "England agrees with me. And the shop . . . "

Crowley snorts. "Right, of course. Gotta maintain that cunning cover of yours." Then adds, because he's not got Aziraphale riled up in a while, "But . . . you aren't supposed to enjoy it."

"Enjoy what, pray tell?"

Crowley gestures broadly. "All of it. Life. Existence. The whole shebang."

Aziraphale frowns. "I'm not sure that's true . . . "

"For us it is." Shouldn't Aziraphale be a little more overbearingly righteous about this?

Aziraphale's whole face changes. "Crowley," he says quietly.

"No, no, come on, I mean it. You're the one who's always trying to put me in place about this kind of—"

"Crowley."

"Getting soft in your old age, is it? I'm telling you, you've got to come back to the holy land—it makes rather more sense for you, you know, and I—"

"Shh!" Aziraphale's hand clamps over his mouth, which means he upsets the table and both their drinks and Crowley ends up halfway out of his chair with a very adamant angel more or less straddling him. "Crowley," Aziraphale says calmly. "An angel's just come in."

Crowley pries Aziraphale's hand away so he can talk. "So you're destroying furniture and molesting infernal agents to avoid detection?" he hisses. "Get off of me!"

Aziraphale is too preoccupied give him the time of day. He leaps back into his seat, which is pointless because no matter how neatly he folds his hands that is not going to change the carnage of wood, porcelain, and pissed off demon left in his wake. "And leave the talking to me for once, please?" he says, like it's all Crowley's fault just because he's the bad guy.

The approaching angel's clothes are about two centuries out of date. Sometimes Crowley forgets Aziraphale is probably the hippest angel around.

"God ye good-morrow, Aziraphael!" the angel says, and Crowley almost explodes with the force of a stifled sneeze. He notices Crowley anyway, and continues in a pathetic stage whisper: "Art thou supping with a human?"

"Oh no, don't be silly, Israfel," Aziraphale says, and Crowley is slightly terrified by how casual he is. "One doesn't associate oneself with humans, does one?"

"Prithee, what is thy name, angel?"

Crowley had been happily snarking to himself, biting back sartorial quips and jokes about how many angels it takes to screw in a lightbulb, but now he's the sole focus of Israfel's attention. Crowley gets hot around the collar and his heart hammers and fear sits heavily in his stomach. "I—I—"

"Nahashael," Aziraphale says smoothly.

And Israfel believes it immediately. At least Crowley's got the host's blind faith on his side for once. The angel smiles artificially. Aziraphale smiles back, and he looks positively devilish in comparison. " 'Twas a pleasure seeing you again, Aziraphael. Fare thee well!"

The angel leaves as suddenly as he'd come, and Aziraphale doesn't even look shaken. He sits across from Crowley and sips his tea like nothing's happened. "So, about the Prince Regent?"

Crowley can only gape at him. "Is that it? Seriously? We just narrowly missed getting discovered again—or worse—and all you've got is more whining about first world problems?"

Aziraphale looks uncomfortable, but delects admirably. "My people are not in the habit of torturing one another into obedience."

"Nah, it's all nepotism and passive aggressiveness with you lot, isn't it?" Crowley says. "And cutting edge vernacular."

"Well, most angels are terribly out of the loop when it comes to earth dialects, because most angels don't spend very much time here. It's a shame really—sometimes I think that, if they did, it'd be . . . oh, I don't know. Earth ought to appreciated more, is all."

"Okay, but he wasn't even talking accurately out of date. Really, do you people just not even try to make an effort? Do you just reckon you can miracle people into believing you're for real?"

"I don't," Aziraphale says. Crowley hopes they run into more angels in the future, just to relish the smug flavor of disdain Aziraphale clearly has for this particular one.

Crowley sighs. "Why does this keep happening?"

"At least I didn't dub thee the angel of death," Aziraphale points out.

"I can't believe you called me 'serpent'." Crowley snorts. "How original. Is that all I am to you?" He's just kidding.

Aziraphale rolls his eyes. Crowley likes him a lot better now that he's at least got a selective comprehension of sarcasm. Maybe one day he'll actually master it. "What was your name, then?"

Crowley shouldn't bristle at the past tense, but he can't seem to help it. He'd hated heaven, but that was just it—he'd always hated it. He wasn't a different person now, not really. Well, entity. Whatever. "Gadreel."

"God is my helper?" Aziraphale looks shifty and, to build on Crowley's earlier comparison, quite like a customer service rep forced to apologize for faulty merchandise and bitter that nobody ever reads his notes in the company suggestion box. Which is exactly what it is. It isn't Aziraphale's fault, really.

"Well," Crowley says, gesturing at himself. "Apparently not." It occurs to him they're sitting very close. Crowley's purely cosmetic heart hasn't stopped racing yet, and he feels giddy with it.

Then it occurs to Crowley that he likes the look of Aziraphale's mouth right now—parted unconsciously, somewhat small and somewhat thin, and of course familiar. He's seen Aziraphale's lips chapped during Britannian winters, split and bloodied after fighting each other in Greece or Jerusalem or Babylonia, for no reason other than the convenience of each other and the inability to cause any permanent damage. Wet with raindrops caught on his upper lip on insignificant occasions throughout time. Pursed or wry or smiling falsely or maybe even smiling for real.

"Hey," Crowley says. "Let me show you something."

" 'Let you'?" Aziraphale asks suspiciously. "You only phrase things like that when you're up to no good."

He might have a point there. Better work on that. "Not really," Crowley shrugs.

"The last time you asked me to 'let you' show me something," Aziraphale continues, "I found myself in a most uncomfortable position with the Marquis de Sade."

"This time will be different."

"Oh really?"

"Yeah."

Crowley had expected the kiss to be mechanical, expected Aziraphale to pull away at once, possibly slap him in a dramatic fashion and storm off. Instead he's met with an automatic response, soft and vague but definitely a response. Crowley could live in the small exciting advances of their mouths for eternity.

It's not like any other kisses Crowley's taken part in, and there's no shortage of those—this one, however, is strangely caught up in his head. He seems to feel the idea of Aziraphale hover above and pulse and enclose him. He doesn't know whether it really is supernatural or whether this is what people normally feel beyond the touch of lips. He tilts his head and—

And Aziraphale snaps out of it. "Well, I never!"

Crowley almost laughs at Aziraphale for actually saying it. "What? What's the big deal? I know I'm not that terrible a kisser . . . " But his heart is hammering in what feels like a life or death fashion.

"I don't know if you're aware of this, but that is in fact a sin."

Crowley spares a moment to be impressed that Aziraphale really is catching on to sarcasm at last, then remembers his wounded pride and says, "Since when is kissing a sin? What planet are you living on?"

"Oh you're just, you're being simply impossible." And Aziraphale manages to make 'simply' sound like 'fucking'.

"I—"

"How dare you!"

"Forget it, okay? Sheesh . . . "

"You're just simply impossible," Aziraphale is muttering, touching his mouth absently. "Simply impossible."

"Listen," Crowley says warily. "I'm pretty sure you've indulged in every other sin . . . "

"I most certainly have not."

"How many second helpings did you have at the Last Supper?"

"That's not—"

"Really need that top of the line powdered wig for the bestowing of miracles, do you?"

"Well—"

"Don't make me bring the books into this," Crowley warns.

Aziraphale eyes him darkly. "Fine. I would point out that one must blend in with the population, but you've never even considered that . . . " He gestures at Crowley in general.

"Uh huh," Crowley says, communicating quite clearly that he doesn't buy this for a second.

"In any event," Aziraphale says, "lust is rather more sinful than—"

"Murder?" Crowley suggests. "Stealing? Committing treason over drinks with the enemy these past couple centuries?"

"Oh just." Aziraphale sighs. "Bugger."

Crowley smiles, pleased with his little victory. "Anyway, who said anything about lust? You lusting over me after a three second kiss, Aziraphale? Gosh, I'm better than I thought . . . "

*

1860

Aziraphale never brought it up, of course. He never thought about it, either—he honestly didn't—but the next time he sees Crowley he can't exactly not remember being snogged within an inch of his life by a denizen of the underworld.

Crowley licks his lips after a sip of tea and Aziraphale watches. It's just that it's hard not to think about it with him being here in the flesh, that's all. Had Crowley's mouth got fuller in the last fifty years, or had Aziraphale just never noticed before? The shorter hair was new, too—carelessly unruly instead of pulled back in a severe ponytail. It made his face look different, softer and less angular and otherworldly. There was a hint of stubble on his cheek, too—was that in fashion now?

"Aziraphale?"

"Yes. Sorry. So, you're taking the war, then?"

Crowley frowns. "Which . . . one?"

"Oh, whichever. I can hardly keep track anymore"

"Do I have to?" Crowley says, petulant.

"Did you have something more demonic in mind?"

"War is hardly demonic."

Aziraphale raises his eyebrows.

"It's not our fault He decided to change the rules back in the day and expect us to go along with it. And it's definitely not my fault. And you know what? It would've . . . well, let's not get into this."

Aziraphale figures he'd better back off. He didn’t understand why Crowley got so wound up over, well, reminiscing. Independence was what the rebels had wanted, wasn't it? They'd definitely got it. Crowley hadn't though, and Aziraphale wondered how much of that was a self-fulfilling prophecy. "As you know, I'm obligated to support whichever side is the most morally sound."

Crowley snorts. "If you say so. Correct me if I'm wrong, but I don't think it's particularly morally sound to flip flop around between these human nations based on how well their contemporary doctrines line up with yours. Isn't loyalty one of your sort of virtues?"

"Are you implying your sort has virtues?" Aziraphale says. "People change, Crowley. We can't. If people start committing genocide, I'll stop supporting them. And if they reform, I'll support them again. You can't hold new generations accountable for whatever their predecessors considered right."

Crowley talks so quietly: "I lead people into temptation, angel. I don't actually kill people just because they've sinned."

"Well, damnation is more or less the same thing, isn't it?"

Crowley pinches the bridge of his nose. Aziraphale hates that he can't see his eyes, anymore. "Time to change the subject. What about this Darwin bloke? You're wanting to pin it on me, I expect?"

"Well, yes. If it's not too much trouble."

Crowley laughs, seems less tense. "You've always been such a supporter of the Enlightenment. 'Free speech', right?"

"This is rather different, Crowley," Aziraphale says, mustering outrage for the occasion. "This is blasphemy."

Crowley laughs. He would laugh at the idea of blasphemy. "Because he's come up with a whole new doctrine to explain away the truth? What would you call your little holiday in America? How is old Joey Smith doing, by the way?"

Aziraphale opens his mouth, but unfortunately can't think of anything that isn't incriminating to say.

Crowley sports his evilest grin. "Oh sorry, was that whole debacle too much like creating something to bear mentioning?"

"It was a misunderstanding, that's all. I'm not capable of creativity, and neither are you, no matter what you tell yourself." Aziraphale just clears his throat and sips tea. As much as he loves tea, Aziraphale's a bit resentful of its popularity these days—he probably shouldn't admit it, but he'd much preferred it when they'd met in taverns and got so drunk the demon would giggle unattractively instead of making snide remarks all the time.

"Oh give it a rest, Aziraphale, seriously. I'm ninety-nine percent sure you created bibliophilia. They don't care."

"Yes they do, Crowley," Aziraphale says. "Believe me."

"Two close calls in the last two thousand years? Sounds like pretty good odds to me."

Aziraphale hates it when Crowley sounds reasonable.

*

1907

They're in India, but you'd never know it if not for the heat. Aziraphale is sweating like a human, hopelessly European looking in his multi-layered clothes and stubbornly flattened hair. Crowley is darkly colored enough he can get away with looking more local, and he sprawls out lazily across from Aziraphale in his ornate sherwani, cool as a cucumber and quite pleased with himself.

Other than Crowley's little splash of color, though, the place is drab and dark and poorly decorated like every tavern throughout history. The more unsavory parts of society never changed, though—alcohol, prostitution, political corruption, he can remember seeing all of it in different contexts for years upon years, but except for certain basic constants, he's never felt the same. Crowley went through different moods, different hobbies and different attitudes toward his counterpart. Aziraphale has changed, too, but he'll deny it up and down because he has to, and because it's too close to deciding something for himself, which is too close to creation.

Humans spent their entire lives creating things, from gunpowder to life philosophies, but in Crowley's experience the most impressive thing a person could accomplish was to change themselves. People built their personalities and their lives and their happiness. Whether they realized it or not, they were constantly creating themselves. He and Aziraphale couldn't do that, theoretically, and Crowley thinks Aziraphale knows very well that he's changed a lot since coming to Earth, but is so terrified of that that he has to deny it as vehemently as possible, and especially when Crowley's around to remind him that he's changed, too.

"You came all the way over here just to bitch about the Kaiser, didn't you?"

"You're a regular Sherlock Holmes," Aziraphale says dryly.

Crowley frowns. "How is it possible you're aware of pop culture fads like Sherlock Holmes?"

"I own a bookshop."

"Yeah, but I didn't think you read anything other than Bibles and, I dunno, the odd prophecy here and there. And the Book of Mormon, of course . . ."

"One must stay up to date in one's field," Aziraphale says primly.

"Uh huh. Hey, so, I correct me if I'm wrong but I thought your field was spreading the Word and singing hymns or whatever it is you people do."

Aziraphale ignores. "Do let's try to keep the conversation business related."

"I was. You're the one who brought up the bloody books, angel, don't look at me." Aziraphale continues to glare, so Crowley says, "So what is it? What's finally convinced you to make the trek back here to the non-artic parts of the world where it doesn't rain on a daily basis?" And by the way, didn't Aziraphale like sunny weather?

"As I understand it, it's rather more dangerous when it rains here."

"Yes," Crowley concedes. "But it is never cold." Monsoons weren't much of a concern when you could fly away from them at the drop of a hat.

Aziraphale smiles indulgently, hides behind his tea as always. What had he done before tea, anyway?

"Stop beating around the bush, Aziraphale."

"India hasn't been converted yet. To Christianity, I mean." He doesn't sound very zealous about it.

"She'll be unfit for freedom til that happens," Crowley says. "Yeah, I heard. Change of heart?" It felt like their meetings were less about discussing business and more about whining about business, anymore.

"No . . ." Yes. "I'm just not sure if they're, hm, going about it the right way, I suppose. These people are pagans, of course, but they aren't . . ."

"Demons?" Crowley suggests.

"Well, yes, if you'll forgive me." But Aziraphale never seems genuinely contrite about belittling him, not really. Maybe things haven't changed all that much, in the end. "They aren't necessarily damned just because they aren't Christian, and Christians aren't necessarily going to heaven just because they're Christian. It's as though they pay no attention at all to G—well, to His actual teachings."

"Of course not. People only care about their own agendas. They take whichever bits serve them the best and ignore the rest. Where have you been?"

Aziraphale bites his lip. "How do you feel about it?"

Crowley raises his eyebrows. "Sorry, are you asking advice of a demon?"

"No, I'm just . . . Well, what do you think, then?"

"You people just . . . well, the missionaries I mean. They tell everyone what to do, whether or not they're already perfectly fine on their own. I tempt people down paths they already want to follow, but I don't force people into changing." His mouth's starting to run away with him, but he's getting too annoyed to care about keeping himself in check and adds meanly, "If you think about it, what you're doing is creating new people . . ."

"I don't create pe—"

"You, missionaries, heaven, whatever. It's all the same. But you've never changed, because you can't, right? To each their own, doesn't bother me. But you can't just ask people to turn into different people and wonder why they resent you for it."

Crowley has to seethe for a minute, but then finds himself laughing instead of, like, fighting Aziraphale to the dea—well, discorporation. It's not for the sake of being civil or their arrangement or anything, but because it just makes him laugh. "Forget it. You're just a holy fool."

*

It's only a few days later when Crowley finds Aziraphale at Aziraphale's temporary house in Kolkata. You couldn't really call it a house, though—it was too open to the world and too close to nature. Aziraphale loved nature, of course, but really there was a time and a place, and that place was not in his living room.

Crowley paces at Aziraphale's door, running nervous hands through his unkempt hair. He was painted black and white in the moonlight.

"Something new to report already?" Aziraphale asks.

"No." Crowley's too busy pacing to even look at him. Aziraphale just wishes he could see his eyes. "Invite me in."

Aziraphale raises an eyebrow. "I thought that was vampires?"

Crowley pushes past him. "There's no such thing as vampires. You really do read too much."

It's the last thing he says before shoving Aziraphale unceremoniously against a wall and kissing him.

"No, Crowley. Crowley, we can't."

"Looks like we are."

"We shouldn't."

"Oh, you haven't cared about 'shouldn't' for years."

So Aziraphale lets himself be kissed again.

It's too simple and too cliché, the way Aziraphale is tempted by him. Of course he loves Crowley—he loves everyone—and of course there are surprising notes of goodness and little evils that Aziraphale can understand in him. Of course Aziraphale loves him. It's that effortless temptation that Crowley so excels at. The way he moves, the pitch of his voice, his scent and his ability to charm anything with one well-placed smirk.

Aziraphale's mind wanders, and meanwhile Crowley's hand wanders to cup Aziraphale's jaw with suspicious tenderness, and Crowley is good at lying, practically invented it, and Crowley merely pressing his lips to Aziraphale's is the simplest of gestures but nevertheless lights a restless fire somewhere in his chest. Aziraphale responds without meaning to.

Crowley makes a terribly helpless, terribly human sound as Aziraphale starts to kiss him back. It could very well be some underhanded appeal to Aziraphale's sympathy for humans, or it could be that Crowley did everything in his power to act like a human himself, whether it was rejecting his infernally given name or living on earth or refraining from attacking Aziraphale on sight . . .

After a minute of soft heat Aziraphale is compelled to say, "Don't tempt me. How dare you tempt me, after all these years of truce." But it's said like he's mumbling through a dream.

"It's what I do," Crowley says, equally as listlessly, adding his other hand to the back of Aziraphale's neck to hold him still, tilting his head to deepen the kiss this time.

Something about the new clash of tongues and Crowley's sigh makes them stumble. Aziraphale clutches Crowley closer and Crowley fists his hands in Aziraphale's shirt, and for a moment they stare like they don't recognize each other. Crowley's mouth's parted in an abruptly appetizing way, shiny and begging for abuse. His sunglasses have disappeared, somewhere.

Crowley's fingers card through Aziraphale's hair absently, and it all feels so terribly out of character. Crowley says, "Has it ever occurred to you that you excel at temptation?"

Aziraphale would rather not answer. Instead he lunges forward to kiss him again.

The closer he and the Crowley are, the more it feels like he's letting a part of himself die, and it's as alarming as it is addictive. It's not exactly a pleasant feeling, but the problem is that by now Aziraphale is weighed down by too many clever little strongholds marked 'Crowley' in his mind.

He's thinking all of this, but somehow what it translates to in terms of actions is Aziraphale shoving Crowley through the unfamiliar, uncomfortable house until they land on Aziraphale's unused bed rather more unclothed than they had been before, but Aziraphale can't remember if that had been miracles or Crowley being impatient or something he'd done but he's much to focused on the softly electric brush of their skin during the continual kiss to care all that much.

"This is a bit," and Crowley takes a break to catch his breath, "bit fast, isn't it? Though I guess we've had a few millennia worth of foreplay . . . "

"Stop talking, Crowley."

But Crowley grins at him as he says, "No problem," and then pins Aziraphale easily on his back.

Aziraphale starts to protest but finds himself abruptly breathless because Crowley's closed his mouth around Aziraphale's cock in record time. He manages to smirk around it, of course, does something blissfully acrobatic with his tongue before sucking the entire length in. It's like adrenaline or fear but it's concentrated to a single point and compressed until it's blindingly brilliant like a diamond. Like a slick, dirty, Crowley's-naked-eyes-looking-up-at-him diamond.

Aziraphale gets hypnotized by them so fast, briefly wonders if this has all been an elaborate ruse just to get Aziraphale in exactly this position before discorporating him or worse, but the only thing Crowley inflicts on him is further, unbelievably increasing pleasure.

It makes Aziraphale feel desperate, and it makes him want to latch onto every fleeting desire he's ever had because they've now grown colossal and it's by the laws of nature that he can't help gravitating toward them.

Crowley pulls off Aziraphale's cock with a lewd little slurp and Aziraphale turns the tables before he can get his bearings. Crowley's eyes are shocked but his lips are curling into an irrepressible grin as Aziraphale presses him ungently back into a mountain of pillows and bunched up blankets. Aziraphale kisses him before he can say something cheeky.

Aziraphale has been more than patient with Crowley over the years, so right now he takes some liberties with physics to push his cock immediately inside of Crowley with sudden slickness. Crowley groans helplessly into Aziraphale's mouth as he stretches him, and the vibration of it takes Aziraphale to some even higher level of arousal he hadn't thought possible.

"No guilt about the odd miracle here and there for the sake of carnal pleasure?"

"You can't rile me up, you know."

"Oh, I beg to differ," Crowley purrs. "I've—ah-ha, ah. Aziraphale, ah . . ."

"You really can't," Aziraphale continues, then leans closer, hiking one of Crowley's legs up and sliding the rest of the way inside him, says "I know you."

"Well you . . . certainly . . . are now." Crowley stops talking, curls his leg around Aziraphale's hip to urge him deeper, squirms deliciously under him but can't keep quiet for long. "Oh fuck this is so much better than sex with humans. Why, one might almost call it . . ."

"Please don't."

" . . . Heavenly," Crowley smirks, and Aziraphale fucks him harder just to wipe it off his face.

It works rather well, and Aziraphale's kicking himself for not thinking of this sooner. As much as Crowley liked to tease Aziraphale for overindulgence, he had far less self-control. Crowley can't seem to stop shifting around beneath him, little unintentional whimpers and overly acted moans that made Aziraphale want to fuck him so hard he won't even have the presence of mind to act sexy. So, with the help of a few more minor miracles, Aziraphale holds him still and just does that.

Crowley's eyes close tightly, but whenever they sliver startlingly open with each ensuing thrust it's not hyperbole to say they're like a burst of pure bright fire and see right through him. "Please . . . please, can you just . . . "

"Yes?"

"More?"

"Oh," Aziraphale says. "No, I don't think so."

"Oh, you are evil. I so called it . . . oh fuck," he adds, because Aziraphale's got Crowley's cock in his hand now, too, jerking it purposefully too slowly while thrusting short fast thrusts deep inside him, and of course Crowley keeps begging until he can't even articulate what he's begging for, and Aziraphale can't think beyond this need to subdue him or the intoxicating surges of pleasure shooting through his usually unused nerve endings. Crowley's whole body clenches around Aziraphale's cock when he comes, and Aziraphale follows not long after, collapses on top of Crowley so that Crowley's mouth by his ear whispers nonsense and Aziraphale and most of all just breathes deeply, desperately, and human.

*

1965

The sun is out in London, but Crowley doesn't mind so much. Britain isn't as bad as it used to be, really—they had sewage systems and television and everything. And James Bond. Crowley could live with that, and anyway he'd got unhealthily attached to his car over the years. There were worse places to spend your time.

He parks illegally outside of Aziraphale's bookshop, beeping and bending reality a bit to keep from getting crashed into or ticketed.

Whenever Aziraphale does finally emerge from the shop Crowley's sure he's accompanied by a puff of dust. He climbs into the passenger seat and says, "The sun is absolutely oppressive today, don't you think?"

*