“What I still don’t understand is how they expected to demonstrate success.” Aziraphale leaned one elbow on the bar and pressed his glass to the side of his head, thinking. “Turning someone gay post-mortem? It’s not as though they could prove it worked.”
“That’s the whole point, though,” Crowley said, raising his hands and gesturing helplessly. “It’s an exercise in absurdity, the point is that it’s nonsense! All those poor sods wanted was to show how stupid it is to go around shouting about what other people’s dead relatives are getting up to in the afterlife. Honestly, I think it’s brilliant. Fuck those funeral crashers, give them a taste of their own medicine for once.” He scowled into his whiskey. “But then I have to go and fuck it all up for them because Hell has their knickers in a twist about some ‘image problem.’ Never mind that if we actually respond to the ritual, it ruins the effect for no purpose whatsoever except to prove the fundies right.”
“You didn’t though, not really,” Aziraphale said. “The cultists—or whatever they were—called on the powers of Hell to change a woman’s spirit from a heterosexual one into a homosexual one, and you answered with a terrifying goat explosion. You didn’t actually fulfill their request.” He furrowed his brow. “Did you?”
Crowley scoffed. “Of course not, that’s impossible. At least as far as I know.” He raised his eyebrows at Aziraphale. “What, are you saying your lot can do that?”
Aziraphale waved the idea away. “No. The concept’s meaningless.” He set his glass down and turned it in circles, watching the ice swirl and melt. “I suppose sexual orientation could be said to be a fundamental aspect of personality, but precisely which elements of individuality persist in someone’s immortal soul is impossible to predict. One’s essential nature isn’t necessarily immutable, but it is deeply personal. And largely unknowable to any but the soul itself.” Aziraphale gazed thoughtfully into the distance. “You might say it’s—”
“If you say it, I will hit you.”
“—a mystery,” he concluded, meeting Crowley’s glare with his most beatifically serene smile.
“Well, that’s a shame.” Crowley rested his elbows on the bar and leaned forward. “I was having fun imagining how it might work. ‘Oi, angel, we’ve just received an urgent request for lesbification, go dust off your spiffiest feminine incarnation and eat this woman’s pussy till she switches teams. Alleluia and all that.’” He grinned, and at this angle Aziraphale could see the sideways glance Crowley shot at him from behind his shades. It was clearly calculated to fluster his presumed angelic sensibilities, but the combined effects of alcohol and exhaustion had suffused Aziraphale with a sort of warm, pleasant fuzziness from which it was difficult to summon an appropriately mortified response. It was only Crowley. Aziraphale could worry about upholding the dignity of the head office some time when the company was more consequential and less companionable.
“Well, I don’t think my attentions have ever had that effect.” He chuckled and stirred his drink. “And if they have, it was quite unintentional, I assure you.”
Crowley let out a laugh. “You make it sound like you’ve actually—” He turned to face Aziraphale. “Wait, have you?”
“Have I what?”
“Ever, you know—” Crowley began to make some illustrative hand gestures. Aziraphale swatted at him ineffectually, trying to suppress a smile.
“Oh stop that, will you? People will see!” He grabbed Crowley’s hands and they struggled for a moment before Aziraphale managed to pin them down flat on the bar. “And yes, of course I have. Haven’t you?”
Crowley’s mouth hung open. “You’re kidding.”
“Why is that so strange?” Aziraphale frowned. “I feel as though I ought to be offended.”
Crowley snorted and pulled his hands back. “Well it’s not very angelic behavior, is it?”
Aziraphale gave a tiny shrug. “It’s part of the job.” His face felt warm, like the beginnings of a blush— but that made absolutely no sense because he was referring to the will of the Lord, about which he could by definition feel no shame or doubt. Usually, anyway… It was possible that those last few drinks hit him a little harder than he expected.
Crowley scoffed again. “Wh— okay, my job, yeah, sure, but your job?” He gestured between them and shook his head. “No way.”
“Yes way!” Aziraphale blurted, feeling strangely affronted. Well now, that was entirely ungrammatical. His first experience with true inebriation was proving to be quite an adventure. “What would you know about it, anyway?”
Crowley smirked at him, clearly disbelieving. “Name one time.”
Several familiar voices in Aziraphale’s head listed out all the reasons he shouldn’t dignify the question with a response: It’s none of his business. He’s a demon. It’s dangerous to divulge intimate details of Heaven’s plans to those who are sworn to oppose them. He’d probably just laugh at you. And did we mention it’s none of his business? Because it’s none of his literally God-damned business. These were joined by a new, very insistent voice, shouting down the rest and echoing through all that pleasant fuzziness: Where did Crowley get the get the idea that you’ve never had sex? He’s wrong! He’s wrong and you should tell him! This is very important for some reason!
“Well.” Aziraphale took a sip of his drink. “Not that it’s any of your business, but.” He focused intently on the wallpaper on the far side of the room and tried to compose himself in a posture of nonchalance. “Are you familiar with the writings of Saint Teresa of Avila?”
He heard no response. When the silence persisted, he glanced in Crowley’s direction— and saw the widest, most genuinely shocked open-mouthed smile he’d seen on Crowley’s face in over a century. “That was you?”
Aziraphale’s blush deepened. “I may have had a hand in some of her more… memorable ecstatic visions, yes.”
“More than a hand, from what I’ve heard!” Aziraphale looked sharply away and Crowley latched on to it, needling him. “Don’t get shy on me now, angel, I’ve seen the Bernini.” He elbowed Aziraphale, grinning. “You minx!”
“Oh, that bloody statue.” Aziraphale groaned and closed his eyes. “I’ll have you know the sculptor took a lot of liberties.”
“He wasn’t the only one.” Crowley leaned close and spoke in an exaggerated, breathy whisper. “And he plunged his fiery spear into me again and again, until I was filled with the most exquisite—”
“Crowley!” Aziraphale smacked Crowley’s arm. “Honestly!”
Crowley wiggled his eyebrows. “Putting the ‘O’ in ‘O Holy Night?”
“I knew I shouldn’t have told you.” Aziraphale buried his face in his hands, trying to hide the sheepish grin growing on his face. “You’ll never let me live this down.”
“What? No!” Crowley threw his arm around Aziraphale and gave him a little shake. “I’m proud of you, angel! Didn’t think you had it in you.” He paused. “Or should I say in her?”
Aziraphale reached for something resembling righteous indignation, but he took one look at Crowley leering at him over his sunglasses and succumbed to the very undignified giggle trying to force its way out of his throat. Crowley snorted, and that was all it took to send them both into a fit of helpless laughter.
Aziraphale wiped tears from the corners of his eyes. “You know she thought I was a seraph? Can you imagine?”
“Puts a new spin on sleeping your way up the corporate ladder. Ooh, there’s something to put on your business cards!” Crowley nudged him. “A. Z. Fell: Bookworm in the streets, seraph in the sheets.” Aziraphale smiled and shook his head.
“All right, all right, show a little respect.” He put his hands on the bar in front of him and exhaled, forcing as much solemnity into his voice as he could muster. “It was a holy act.”
Crowley picked up his glass and tipped it toward Aziraphale in salute. “Nice work if you can get it.” He quirked an eyebrow. “Do you, still? That the sort of thing they have you doing often?”
“Oh goodness no,” Aziraphale said, “not for ages. That sort of saintly vision went out of fashion a long time ago.” He finished the last of his drink and sighed. “No, I’m afraid my work isn’t quite so exciting as that nowadays. Certainly not compared to yours, I’m sure.”
Crowley pulled a face that landed somewhere between furtive and confessional. “Eh, honestly?” He spread his hands. “Not as much excitement there as you’d expect.”
That was surprising. Aziraphale had always assumed that Crowley’s... well, to borrow a phrase he’d picked up that afternoon, Crowley’s whole deal, with the swagger and those trousers that looked to be monstrously uncomfortable, was in service of his duties as a solicitor of sin. “You mean, you don’t tempt people to sins of the flesh?”
Crowley shook his head. “Not often, no. Not really my department. I mean, if Hell’s serious about a seduction, they’re gonna send a specialist. An incubus or the like.” He shrugged and went back to his drink. “I’m not that kinda demon.”
“I confess, that runs counter to the way I’ve generally pictured you.” Aziraphale put a hand on his chest and adopted a performatively scandalized tone. “How dare you sir, I’m not that kind of demon!”
“Shut up,” Crowley said, smiling and kicking Aziraphale’s shin. “Trust me, I’m up to the task if the situation requires. S’just it very rarely does. Humans, you know?” He gestured around the bar with a sweep of his hand. “Most of the time, you give them the barest little nudge and they’ll hump like rabbits all on their own.”
That rang an alarm bell in a distant corner of Aziraphale’s mind. There was something important there, some significant detail he’d overlooked or forgotten, and Crowley’s words had briefly touched on it— but his thoughts kept slipping off the thing and tripping into rabbit holes. Hah. Rabbit holes, oh dear. “Why rabbits?” Aziraphale’s question came out a little slurred.
“Hm?” Crowley had flagged down the bartender to refresh both their drinks and had to turn his head to look back at Aziraphale. He cleared his throat and asked again, taking care to enunciate more clearly.
“You said, ‘hump like rabbits.’ Why rabbits?”
Crowley shrugged one shoulder. “It’s just an expression. I don’t think anybody asked the rabbits about it.”
“Well that’s what I mean,” Aziraphale said. “I understand the implication: the rabbit’s prodigious rate of reproduction seems to imply a vigorous sex life, but it’s not— the rabbits don’t necessarily— I mean, if we’re strictly speaking of how often or, or enthusiastically they copulate…” He had to pause. He’d forgotten where he was going with this.
“Well all right then, Encyclopedia Angelica,” Crowley asked, “what should I say instead?” He turned in his seat and rested one arm over the back of the chair, settling in to give Aziraphale his full attention. “All creatures great and small, which one you think fucks the most?”
Aziraphale rested his chin on his hand and considered. “Well, several species have the rabbit beat in terms of fecundity. Given the right environmental conditions, common dormice will outbreed the rabbit by a mile.” He leaned in and dropped his voice like he was relaying a piece of salacious gossip. “And none of them hold a candle to the invertebrates, not when you’ve got an Argentine queen ant laying four million eggs every month. Every single month! Rabbits could never.”
Crowley passed Aziraphale a fresh gin and tonic. “I will never understand how you remember so many weird animal facts while you’re drunk.” He was laughing again, and Aziraphale couldn’t tell whether it was with him or at him, but he found that he cared very little. To make Crowley laugh was a rare joy for Aziraphale, and he craved it even if it came at his own expense. The words pressed up against his lips unbidden, propelled by that insistent, indistinct alcohol fuzziness: I love making you laugh, do you know that? It’s my favorite thing in the world— but if he said that, it would make Crowley stop laughing. So he didn’t.
“But you weren’t asking which species produces the most offspring,” Aziraphale continued, taking the offered glass. “You’re asking which species has the most sex. The obvious candidate would be bonobos.”
“Oh come on, that’s not a real animal,” Crowley drawled, “s’not even a real word.”
“I assure you, bonobos are very real. They’re related to chimpanzees and they’re well-known for the frequency of their sexual relations.” Aziraphale gestured with his free hand. “Zoos can hardly even display them— they scandalize the visitors!”
“I’m not buying it, Aziraphale, pretty sure you’re making this one up.” Crowley’s grin was skeptical in a familiar way that translated to ‘I don’t actually think you’re making this one up, but please continue disagreeing with me, this is fun.’
“They are real! And they have scads of partners, any gender, for absolutely non-stop sex. You asked which animal engages in the most sexual activity, and that’s the one.” Aziraphale gave a decisive nod. “Bonobos.”
“So how come I’ve never heard of these depraved sex monkeys before?”
“Well, there’s no accounting for your deficit of education.” Aziraphale took Crowley’s scoff in stride. “And bonobos aren’t depraved,” he continued, “they’re quite peaceful. Turns out all that sex makes for a remarkably harmonious society. Really, if you want an example of the animal kingdom at its most sexually horrifying, you need look no further than ducks.” Aziraphale shuddered. He did not like to think about the sexual practices of ducks.
“Ducks?” Crowley frowned. “Like, the ones in ponds? What’s wrong with ducks?”
Aziraphale’s hands flew to his mouth. “Oh, you poor dear, you don’t know,” he said, “you don’t know about the ducks!”
“I know plenty about ducks,” Crowley countered, “or at least I thought I did. Why, what do ducks do that’s so horrible?”
“No, you don’t want to know.” Aziraphale shook his head firmly. “I won’t tell you, I couldn’t bear to hurt you like that.”
“Well obviously now I have to look it up.” Crowley grabbed his phone before Aziraphale could stop him, but halted and gave Aziraphale a wry look. “Or I would, if somebody hadn’t killed my battery for the evening.”
Aziraphale breathed a sigh of relief. “Trust me, you’re far better off without that knowledge. It will bring you nothing but regret.”
“Angel, come on, you know who you’re talking to.” Crowley flashed him a grin that was more serpent than human. “You say it like that and I’m practically obligated to covet it.”
“I know,” Aziraphale said mournfully, “there’s no stopping you now I’ve put the idea in your head. You’ll seek out the truth eventually.” He took both Crowley’s hands in his and looked deep into his— well, his sunglasses, but it felt close enough to meaningful eye contact. “In that case, these are your last few hours of innocence.” Aziraphale gave Crowley’s hands a gentle squeeze. “Cherish them.”
Crowley seemed equal parts amused and concerned. “Aziraphale, are you okay? Usually you don’t get this maudlin over waterfowl until much later in the evening.”
“Ah, yes, you have a point. I’m… rather drunk.” After a moment’s pause, he remembered that he was holding Crowley’s hands and released them. “You know, as it turns out, I think I might be something of a lightweight? How dreadful. I had no idea.”
“Secret’s safe with me. But you might want to sober up a touch before you’re weeping over cormorants, yeah?”
“Yes! That’s a very good idea.” Aziraphale brought his hands together and rested them on the bar in front of him. “How. Um. How is that normally accomplished, again?”
“All right, now you’re worrying me. Can’t you just…?” Crowley made a little twirling motion in the air with his hand.
“Interesting fact: …no?”
Crowley’s demeanor changed instantly, all ease banished from his posture. “What happened?” His voice was low and urgent. “Did something happen at the cemetery? Did Heaven find out you were—”
Aziraphale shushed him. “No, it’s nothing like that, you needn’t worry. I planned this. It’s not unexpected, just…”
“What do you mean you planned this?”
He attempted a careless shrug but suspected it came off as more of a wobble. “Well, in order to keep this operation off the books, I had to sort of… shuffle a few things around, miraculously-speaking. The last thing we want right now is to bring down the wrath of a Heavenly audit on our heads.” Aziraphale had been the subject of just such an audit some years back, and he winced with embarrassment at the memory— he still maintained that banishing mildew from antique cookbooks was a perfectly legitimate use of the power of God, no matter what Gabriel said. “Nobody should bother looking into the specifics of my day-to-day miracles, just as long as I don’t start calling on more than my usual share of Heaven’s might. To that end, I’ve been carefully rationing the use of my power so as to avoid dipping too far into the discretionary fund, as it were. The most obvious place to cut back was the supernatural upkeep of my physical form. So, for the time being, I’ve divested myself of those particular abilities in favor of doing things the old-fashioned way.” He smiled brightly. “It’s sort of an adventure!”
Crowley didn’t look pleased at all. “You mean, this whole time you’ve been helping me, you’ve been actually getting hungry and all that?”
Aziraphale nodded. “And thirsty, and tired. And unexpectedly grimy, by the end of the day— I have to bathe so often. I hadn’t counted on that.” He turned over his hand, flexing his fingers and watching the movement of tendons under the skin. “It’s easy to forget how much maintenance these bodies require.”
Crowley grimaced and looked away down the bar. “Aw, Satan’s sake, angel, I didn’t know I was putting you out like that.”
“Nonsense, it’s nothing I can’t manage. I’m choosing to think of it as an exercise in empathy for the suffering of humankind.” Aziraphale found the ordeal of commercial air travel and budget motels more bearable if he framed it in those terms, though that framing had been less helpful on the taxi ride from the airport when he discovered his body’s heretofore unknown predisposition towards motion sickness.
“We’re only in Kansas,” Crowley muttered. “You want a thorough understanding of pain and suffering, you need to head to Arizona.” He summoned up a glass of water and slid it over to Aziraphale. “Drink that. You can empathize with humanity via hangover another time.”
“Oh, that’s marvelous, thank you!” Aziraphale hadn’t realized how parched he felt until he lifted the glass to his lips— did thirst always make water taste this incredibly sweet? “You’re so thoughtful sometimes, Crowley.”
“Yeah, don’t go spreading that around.”
“I wouldn’t dream of it.”
One he was done with the first glass, Crowley refilled it with a gesture and looked at him sternly until he started drinking the second. “Tell me something,” Crowley asked when Aziraphale was almost finished, “How shitty is your hotel?”
“Oh, it’s— er, it’s all right.” Aziraphale fidgeted in his seat. “Perfectly serviceable. I can’t complain.”
“Aziraphale.” Crowley fixed him with a knife-sharp look that even darkened lenses couldn’t dull. “You can’t stand miracling away your bills even when you’re not ducking an audit, so that means you’re paying for lodgings with your own money. And you run an antique book shop in the age of Amazon. How shitty is your hotel?”
“It’s fine, really.” Aziraphale’s hotel was somewhat less than fine, in fact, but grousing about the anemic shower or the lumpy mattress didn’t seem in keeping with his stated goal of empathy for the plight of the common mortal. “There’s even a complimentary breakfast buffet.”
“Uh-huh, and how is that breakfast buffet?” Crowley raised an eyebrow. “Remember, you’ve actually got to eat something for breakfast now. Don’t have the luxury of passing it up if it looks rubbish.”
“Well…” Aziraphale held out for a few seconds, then crumpled. “Oh, Crowley, it’s awful. It’s nothing but prepackaged muffins and stale bagels, and I think they’ve been setting out the same two oranges every day for weeks, just hoping nobody notices.” He groaned pitifully. “They put ice in the milk! I can’t understand it! It’s abhorrent!”
Crowley’s mouth twitched. “Right.” He tilted his head and drew in a breath, seeming to consider something. “Listen, angel, I wouldn’t put money on you working out how to use Uber even if you were sober as a judge, and it’s America so nothing’s walking distance.” He gestured over his shoulder. “If you want, you can sleep it off in my room. I’d wager it’s less shitty than yours and I can guarantee it’s a lot closer.”
The generosity of the gesture caught Aziraphale by surprise. As much as he liked spending time with Aziraphale, Crowley prized his solitude. A permanent Earthly posting offered ample time to oneself (a commodity in short supply both Upstairs and Down), and it was safe to say that they’d both taken their positions with that perk in mind. To take Crowley up on his offer felt like a terrible imposition, especially after such an eventful day— surely he’d been looking forward to some time alone to unwind, rather than babysitting a drunk angel?
Crowley scowled. “Oh, come on, don’t give me that look— there’s two beds. This isn’t a rom-com.”
The alarm bell sounded again at the end of some long corridor in Aziraphale’s imagination. What look was Crowley talking about? His hesitation was clearly sending some volatile social cue, but— well, damned if he could put his finger on what it was. Easier to simply accept than to puzzle out exactly what his refusal would imply. “Thank you so much,” Aziraphale said, leaning forward precariously. “I don’t know how I can possibly repay you.”
“Don’t trouble yourself, it’s only fair. I still owe you one.” Crowley settled their tab and stood to offer Aziraphale a steadying hand. “Or, y’know, nine hundred ninety-nine thousand nine hundred ninety-nine.”
“Nine hundred ninety-nine thousand nine hundred ninety-seven, I’d say.” Aziraphale held up two fingers. “I’m counting both the waters.”
“Both? Didn’t know you were so easy. I’ll have this debt paid off in no time.”
As they made their way upstairs, angel leaning a touch heavily on demon and demon keeping uncharacteristically quiet about it despite many golden opportunities for angel-teasing, Aziraphale heard Crowley talking to himself under his breath. “Saint Teresa of Avila,” he muttered with a note of wonder, followed by a quiet laugh and a shake of his head. “Never would have guessed. Not in a million years.”
Though he’d never made a regular habit of it, Aziraphale did occasionally enjoy sleep. He liked the aimless, gentle dissolve of conscious thought, and nothing settled a troubled mind like a nice REM cycle. He indulged in a quick nap every now and then, but didn’t see the use in devoting a full third of his time to it like humans did— especially not after the invention of the printing press and the resulting abundance of available reading material. So it was fair to say that his body’s sudden, stubborn demand for eight hours of rest every single night had substantially upset his routine, which made its current refusal to get started on this whole sleeping business all the more vexing.
He was somewhere in the low thousands when he gave up counting sheep, and since then he’d done little but stare at the ceiling. He’d tried lying on his back, then on one side, then the other, managing only to tangle himself hopelessly in the sheets. Aziraphale was not, as a rule, given to questioning intelligent design, but honestly, how could something as simple and necessary as falling asleep be so difficult to accomplish? Perhaps he should file a complaint. Far be it from him to criticize the design of the human body, but this insomnia business—not to mention the bizarre tendency to bite one’s tongue while chewing—gave the impression that the system could benefit from a little troubleshooting.
Aziraphale rolled over to look at Crowley, sprawled face-down on the other bed and dead to the world. “You make it look so easy,” he grumbled, hugging a pillow to his chest and glaring. Maybe Crowley was the problem? Perhaps some deeply-buried angelic instinct was warning him, Demon! Right over there! Don’t let your guard down! It seemed unlikely. Crowley looked less devious than ever. He slept in briefs and an oversized black t-shirt with a faded white eye on it, and even under the red glow of the digital clock display, he looked less like a foul fiend of the pit and more like a jumble of elbows in a potato sack. The effect was actually sort of charming— Aziraphale didn’t usually see Crowley looking so comfortably disheveled. It felt curiously intimate.
Given Crowley’s fondness for decades-long naps, Aziraphale had assumed he would be a heavy sleeper, still as a corpse— or else that he would thrash about in torment haunted by the nightmares of the damned, but that was based on what Aziraphale had to admit were some pretty prejudicial assumptions on his part. In reality, Crowley muttered some half-words and nonsense phrases from time to time, wrestled away most of his covers without waking himself, and snored a little. His sleeping habits were almost aggressively normal. It occurred to Aziraphale that watching Crowley sleep was pretty creepy behavior, but he had precious little else to do. He closed his eyes—they itched with the same exhausted restlessness that plagued the rest of his body—and thought of how lovely it would feel to join Crowley. He jumped. In— in sleep, obviously, join him in the state of being asleep, that’s what Aziraphale meant. Not join him in bed, what a preposterous notion— could you even imagine? The sleep-deprived mind does go to some strange places—
And then Crowley rolled over on his back and stretched one of his arms over his head, pulling his shirt up a few inches and exposing the jut of a hipbone and a dusting of rust-colored hair that vanished into his underwear, and Aziraphale suddenly found that he could even imagine. Quite vividly, in fact.
The thing is, while Aziraphale himself was an eternal celestial being, the physical form he inhabited on Earth was for all intents and purposes an ordinary human body. He could, and did, use miracles to spare it much of the wear and tear it might normally suffer, but it still had all the same needs as any other body. Some of those needs, he was used to meeting without supernatural assistance— why should he magically banish his hunger when he could just as easily eat a sandwich? Others, he dismissed so routinely that he often forgot they existed. Six thousand years’ practice made such dismissals as easy as breathing (or not breathing, should the situation require), and as such, it had been a long time since Aziraphale had given any thought to things like insomnia or allergies or… unexpected sexual arousal.
The alarm bell in Aziraphale’s head clanged angrily back to life. Crowley was handsome, Aziraphale had always known that. It was one of any number of objective, established facts about reality: plants produce oxygen as a byproduct of photosynthesis, light travels in a vacuum at a little under three million meters per second, Crowley is attractive. If this ‘experiment in empathy’ was accomplishing anything, it might be to add Aziraphale is an idiot who consistently fails to anticipate even the most predictable outcomes of his choices to that list of objective facts, right alongside there is a world of difference, and also no difference at all, between ‘Crowley is attractive’ and ‘you are wildly attracted to Crowley and have been for ages, you incomparable dunce!’
Aziraphale clutched the pillow tighter and squeezed his eyes shut against the mental image of slipping into bed next to Crowley, rolling him over and smoothing out all those rumpled, sleepy angles until he was spread out beneath Aziraphale, warm and breathless and— no, stop that. None of that! He was not about to entertain a sexual fantasy about an agent of Satan. More importantly, there were some things you just didn’t do to— well it would be unspeakably rude, wouldn’t it, to think those things about a, a, about a colleague? Especially when he was right there! Aziraphale made the mistake of opening his eyes again, as if to check that Crowley was indeed still right there. He was. And so was the shallow dip between his collarbones, upon which Aziraphale desperately wanted to put his mouth as soon as possible, and oh no.
Aziraphale flopped on to his back and stared intently up into the darkness. He could manage this. He could. Humans did it every day, going about their business while navigating sudden, inconvenient sexual feelings for their friends, and you didn’t see them losing their minds over it. Well, except for all the times you did. In fact you frequently did, but— never mind that, he could do better. He just had to find something else to occupy his thoughts, something engrossing, methodical, and strictly non-erotic. Something like a mathematical theorem, maybe one of the tricky ones requiring proof by contradiction— even Aziraphale found those tough to follow. It was a confoundingly elegant sort of logic: if an assertion is impossible to prove directly, start by supposing that its opposite is true, and proceed as far as you can until you arrive at a logical absurdity. Thus, having shown that the opposite statement implies something obviously false, the original statement is proven to be true. He folded his hands on his stomach, closed his eyes, took a deep breath, and focused his thoughts firmly on the ancient Greek proof of the existence of infinitely many prime numbers.
Let us begin by assuming that there are not infinitely many primes, and that there exists instead a finite set of prime numbers. This set has n elements, numbered p1, p2, p3, … pn.
This was good. All Aziraphale needed to do was maintain his focus and he’d be safely asleep in no time, all embarrassing, inappropriate feelings banished and hopefully forgotten by morning.
Now, let P be the product of all the elements in our finite set of prime numbers; in other words, the factors of P comprise all our known primes. Let Q be a number equal to P plus one.
He swallowed. These were safe, solid thoughts to dwell on, and most importantly, they were miles away from wondering what the skin at the base of Crowley’s throat tasted like.
If Q is prime, then we have identified a prime number not contained in our set of “all” prime numbers, proving false our original assumption of a finite set of primes.
It probably didn’t even taste like anything, just— just soap, probably. Focus!
If, on the other hand, Q is composite, consider its factors: Q will have no factors in common with P because they are too close to one another, just like you have no factors in common with Crowley, which is why you should not under any circumstances spread your palms flat on his thighs and ghost your fingers over his skin before hooking your hands behind his knees to—
All right, well, clearly this wasn’t working. Aziraphale rolled on his side and curled in on himself. Every image he pushed out of his mind just made room for another: Aziraphale sinking his fingers into Crowley’s sleep-mussed hair. Crowley’s lips, swollen and kiss-bitten, parted around Aziraphale’s name. The press of Crowley’s hard cock against Aziraphale’s thigh, under his hands, on his tongue— stop, stop, why couldn’t he stop thinking about this? Aziraphale bit down on his lip, hoping the pain might cut through this fog of arousal. He wasn’t used to having this little control over his body’s reactions. He thought back on his earlier assessment of his self-imposed plight and grimaced— “it’s sort of an adventure!” Oh, what a fool he’d been.
Tentatively, Aziraphale moved his hand down toward the growing physical evidence of his predicament. He was maddeningly hard, but a flood of shame coursed through him as his fingers brushed over his erection. Could there be anything less dignified than touching himself in the dark while Crowley slept not ten feet away, like some graceless teenager at a sleepover? To call it a breach of etiquette would be a laughable understatement. But he had to do something, this was getting ridiculous.
He shut his eyes and shoved his hand into his boxers, taking his prick in a tight grip. He could just— this wasn’t really any different from eating or bathing, was it? He was merely addressing one of this body’s needs. Aziraphale would bring himself off as quietly and efficiently as he could manage, and then maybe he could finally fall asleep and put an end to this mortifying episode with Crowley none the wiser. He tried to drive any thoughts of Crowley from his mind as he stroked himself, but it was all too easy to imagine the demon’s long fingers curled around him instead of his own. Aziraphale’s throat worked around a quiet whine. He could practically hear the sultry whisper under the sound of his own short, ragged breaths: Angel…
“-’ziraphll? What’re you doing?”
He froze. That was not a sultry whisper from Aziraphale’s imagination, that was a drowsy mumble from the other bed. He kept quiet, his pulse pounding in his ears— maybe Crowley was talking in his sleep again?
“You masturbating over there or something?”
Trembling, Aziraphale twisted around to see one of Crowley’s bright yellow eyes peering at him through the darkness. He couldn’t quite tell in this light, but he suspected that he’d gone a vivid shade of pink from head to toe— and Crowley could see in the dark a lot better than he could.
“I—” Aziraphale squeaked. Lie, just lie, he told himself. If you ever want Crowley to look you in the eye again, then for the love of all that’s holy and a few things that aren’t, LIE! He opened his mouth, but nothing came to him. “I-I— I’m sorry—”
“Oh shit,” Crowley said, blinking. “I didn’t actually think…” He ducked his head, and Aziraphale heard a percussive, strangled laugh. “Well, don’t stop on my account— I can, ah, I can step out for a moment, if…” Crowley laughed again, stifled and giddy; it sounded like he could barely restrain his mirth enough to form words. “Or, y’know, I can stay, if you’ve got an exhibitionist streak—”
Aziraphale didn’t need light to tell that his blush had deepened from pink to red. He tugged his knees up to his chest and covered his face with his hands, whining and wishing he could sink through the floor and disappear entirely. Clearly, the best course of action now would be a swift discorporation followed by several decades of paperwork and a reassignment to some remote island in the Pacific Ocean. Or just to the Pacific Ocean, full stop. Preferably the bottom of it.
Crowley gradually caught his breath. “Aw, c’mon, don’t be like that,” he said, “I’m just teasing— really, angel, I don’t care.” Aziraphale heard rustling as Crowley extricated himself from his nest of bedding to sit up straighter. “I get it, you haven’t got your miracles, so your body’s just… being a body, doing body things. It happens!”
“M’sorry,” Aziraphale croaked out, still tucked into a miserable little ball of shame.
“Pfft, don’t be. You can blame it on me if it makes you feel better— demon, wiles, et cetera.” Crowley tossed his hair and flashed a wicked smile. “You couldn’t help yourself, I’m just so devastatingly tempting that my mere proximity overwhelmed you with lust. I didn’t even have to do anything, that’s how talented I am.” He shrugged. “Plus, honestly, I’ve been slacking off in the ‘inspiring foul deeds’ department lately, so if you look at it that way you’re helping me hit my quota.”
Aziraphale flinched, then raised his head and stared. “Is that…” The possibility sank its hooks in, and he sat up as he felt anger flare in his chest, hot and bright. “Is that what this is? Is this an assignment? Are you tempting me right now?”
“What? Angel, no, I was joking.” Crowley’s grin melted. “Aziraphale, come on, you know I wouldn’t do that to you. Not the capital-T kind, never.” Aziraphale watched Crowley wilt, just a little, then school himself back into an expression of casual irritation too perfectly composed to be genuine— and oh, that was so much worse. Remorse hit him like a punch in the gut. He really was doing a bang-up job of the whole friendship business tonight, wasn’t he?
“No… of course not,” Aziraphale said. He fell back against the headboard with a thump and rubbed his hand over his face. “I’m sorry, I shouldn’t have said that. It was uncalled for.” Of course Crowley hadn’t— he’d been asleep, for Heaven’s sake. It was bad enough when humans tried to pawn off responsibility for their own bad behavior by claiming infernal interference; Aziraphale had even less excuse.
Crowley stayed quiet for a moment. “Yeah… well. Can’t really blame you for going there, can I? I’m the one who brought it up.” The accusation clung to the air between them like the memory of smoke, stagnant and bitter even as it cleared. “S’not like that would make any sense, though,” Crowley continued, mouth quirking back up into a half-smile. “Not unless a snoring demon in a puddle of sleep-drool is the kinda thing that gets you going.”
I should laugh at that, Aziraphale thought. Crowley was throwing him an obvious lifeline, something that could drag them both out of murky waters and back to the relative safety of snark and self-deprecation. He could picture it clearly: Aziraphale would chuckle and shake his head, give Crowley the opportunity for one last parting barb, and then they would both settle back into sleep— or at least into politely ignoring one another while attempting to sleep. He could take hold of this runaway train of an evening and wrestle it back on track to fade into a benign, embarrassing anecdote, and he wouldn’t even have to lie, he’d just have to… do something… other than stare in frozen silence like a deer in headlights… as he had been doing for the past thirty seconds… while the moment… sailed on past.
Comprehension dawned. “Oh,” Crowley said. And then, more quietly, to himself, “...oh.”
Aziraphale’s face burned. He squeezed himself back into his tiny shame-sphere and buried his head in his arms. “I’m so, so sorry…”
“Hey. Hey. Stop that.” He heard more rustling, then felt the mattress dip as Crowley sat down on the edge of the bed near his feet. “Knock it off with the self-flagellation already. If anybody should be apologizing, it ought to be me. Angel, hey, look at me.” Aziraphale lifted his head. The faint glow of the alarm clock was the only illumination in the room, and Crowley’s pupils were dilated far enough in the low light that they were almost round. It lent his expression an alarming softness. “Listen. The whole reason you’re out here in the middle of nowhere, short on miracles and contending with weird Satanists and stale bagels, it’s all on account of me. You did me a huge favor.” He tilted his head and gave a rueful smile. “And how do I repay it? By giving you shit over— over nothing.” Crowley rested one hand on Aziraphale’s knee and put the other under Aziraphale’s chin, gently tugging him up out of his defensive crouch. “That’s hardly any way for me to say thank you, is it?” Crowley’s voice was low and gentle, and he kept leaning closer, his gaze drifting from Aziraphale’s eyes to his lips and back again, and his hands felt so warm, and his face was really very close now, and this was— this was—
“What are you doing?” It was out of Aziraphale’s mouth in a tight, breathless rush before he could stop himself.
Crowley’s eyes snapped open and he froze, near enough to Aziraphale now that their noses almost touched. “Badly misreading the situation,” he answered, “apparently?”
He started to pull back and Aziraphale grabbed his hands. “No, stop,” he said, “you’re not… misreading…” He winced. Crowley held very few things sacred, but his debts were chief among them. Aziraphale couldn’t bear the thought of Crowley… indulging these perverse fantasies out of some twisted sense of obligation. He’d rather endure Crowley’s ridicule or his outright disgust, both of which he felt he richly deserved. But it also wouldn’t do to let Crowley feel like he was the one acting with impropriety here, not when he’d just caught Aziraphale—oh, good lord—red-handed.
Aziraphale took a deep breath. “It’s just that, regardless of— well, of however I feel, um…” He forced himself to look Crowley in the eye. “Please understand, Crowley, you don’t owe me anything. Certainly not anything like that.”
Crowley nodded vigorously. “Oh, yeah, obviously I know that, yeah.” Was it a trick of the light, or was his face just a touch flushed? “I know you don’t want that, you’d never want— I just thought— you know, you’ve done so much for me lately, and it’s, I mean it’s not like I think you’d ever expect— just— but that’s not the point, the point is I might…” Crowley’s mouth ran silently through a series of different shapes before he gave voice to any of them. “I might. Kinda want to. A little?”
“You—” Aziraphale felt gravity lurch sideways. “You might want to?”
“Yeah, well.” Crowley jerked his shoulders in a way that looked like something trying to imitate a shrug and not finding much success. “Maybe I’ve been nursing a bit of a crush. For a while.” His face twitched and hid it by glowering at his feet. “Sue me, all right? You’re gorgeous and I’m weak!”
Aziraphale stared. It felt like his lungs couldn’t take in enough air to keep up with the speed of his racing heart. “You think I’m gorgeous?” It’s not that he disliked how he looked, but, well, there were the sort of angels who got made into frescoes, and then there was Aziraphale. He’d always thought he cultivated an aesthetic that was less ‘celestial glory’ and more ‘approachably frumpy’— but Crowley said he was gorgeous?
Crowley’s head snapped back up. “Of course you’re gorgeous. Has somebody been telling you you’re not gorgeous?” His eyes narrowed and his mouth twisted into a scowl. “Who’s telling you that, is it one of the other angels? Is it that vain prick, Raphael? I never liked him, who does he think he is, talking to you that way? I’ll rip his arms off—”
“Oh, no, please don’t,” Aziraphale interjected, unsure how conscious Crowley was of his tightening grip on Aziraphale’s hands. “That’s a kind offer—sort of—but there’s no need for, um, for anything like that.” As it happened, Raphael had a reputation among the other angels for extreme body positivity (which was a little strange coming from someone who only occasionally had a body), and he would in all probability dispute Aziraphale’s ‘frumpy’ self-assessment with a furious torrent of compliments and then launch into a diatribe against frescoes promoting an unrealistically narrow standard of angelic beauty, but all that was beside the point. Aziraphale looked down at their joined hands. “You. What you mean to say is, you want—” He gestured between them. “—with me?”
“I mean, only if you want to,” Crowley said. “I just assumed— but if you do, I’m, uh.” He swallowed. “I’m pretty extremely not opposed to the idea, yeah.”
Aziraphale needed a moment to process this new information. There were plenty of reasons—an uncountably infinite number of reasons—that he shouldn’t take Crowley up on this. But this was such a magnificently absurd turn of events that his mind blanked out in contemplation of it, and he found he couldn’t articulate exactly why it would be such a bad idea… and, well, if he couldn’t directly prove it was a bad idea, maybe he should start from the assumption that it was a good idea, and see where he could go from there? That is a willful misapplication of the concept and you know it, hissed one of the familiar voices in Aziraphale’s head. He told it to fuck off.
“Okay,” Aziraphale said, nodding to himself. He focused his gaze back on Crowley’s face and kept nodding. “Okay.”
“Okay?” Crowley nodded along, his eyes wide and searching. “Okay… what?”
“Okay— this.” Aziraphale let go of Crowley’s hands, grabbed his face, and pulled him into a kiss.
“Mmmff—!” For a moment, that muffled noise of shock was Crowley’s only reaction, and Aziraphale panicked—he overstepped, he’d ruined everything, this was a disaster, they’d never come back from this—but then Crowley planted his hands on either side of Aziraphale’s face, mirroring the angel’s gesture. “Oh, thank fuck,” he gasped as they parted for breath, “that’s what I was hoping you’d say.” And he kissed Aziraphale back.
They kissed hungrily, clumsily, breaking now and then to wedge a stunned question into the proceedings: “But you never said anything—” “Well, neither did you!” “I didn’t think you were interested!” “Maybe if you’d asked…” “Oh, shut up, you beautiful idiot—” Crowley licked across Aziraphale’s bottom lip and Aziraphale opened his mouth to admit that improbably flexible tongue, swallowing a moan— his own, or Crowley’s, he couldn’t be sure. He forced himself to remember that, at least for the time being, this body did occasionally need to breathe.
Crowley pulled away from their embrace to shuffle himself properly up onto the mattress, and Aziraphale, breathing hard and riding the wave of adrenaline coursing through his blood, took the opportunity to tug his shirt up over his head and toss it aside. That earned him a yellow-eyed stare that seared Aziraphale’s skin like a brand. It made him feel like he’d been hollowed out and filled with something new and raw and molten.
Crowley braced his knees on either side of one of Aziraphale’s thighs, wetting his lips and casting an admiring gaze over the newly-bared expanse of Aziraphale’s chest. “Fuck,” he breathed, “the sight of you…” The dim red glow was apparently more than enough light for Crowley, though Aziraphale’s mostly-human eyes could only manage a hazy, indistinct impression of the demon before him. He wished he could see Crowley more clearly. He wanted to memorize that half-drunk, half-starved look on Crowley’s face, wanted to secret it away in some hidden place under his ribs and carry it inside him forever, but turning on a light felt dangerously close to a rational decision and he feared that if he started making any of those, he might not be able to stop— and there were a great many irrational things happening at the moment that Aziraphale needed desperately not to stop.
Crowley let his hands hover over Aziraphale’s skin, and he lifted his gaze with a question in it.
“Oh,” Aziraphale answered, taking one of those hands and pressing it to his chest. “Yes, please do.”
Crowley leaned into the touch and buried his face in the crook of Aziraphale’s neck, circling his arm around the angel’s waist and pulling them close. He ran his hands over Aziraphale’s skin and sucked wet, open-mouthed kisses along his throat that made Aziraphale gasp and twist his fingers in Crowley’s hair. He yelped when Crowley’s thumb brushed over a nipple. Crowley paused and looked up. “You ticklish there?”
“N-no,” Aziraphale lied, shivering at the touch.
A smile crept over Crowley’s face. “You sssure?” He dipped his head, and with a speed that standard human physiology shouldn’t permit, flicked his tongue against Aziraphale’s other nipple. Aziraphale jerked away and clapped his hand over his mouth, muffling what could have been a very embarrassing shriek. Crowley grinned wider. “I think you are…”
Aziraphale hugged his arms to his chest. “I won’t reveal my weaknesses to an agent of the enemy.”
“Nope, too late, that’s going in my next report.” Crowley nuzzled the underside of Aziraphale’s jaw. “‘Uncovered irrefutable evidence that the principality Aziraphale makes a squeaky noise when I lick his nipples.’ That’s top-notch intel, right there. Really gonna turn the tide in the war on Heaven. I’ll probably get a promotion.”
“Fiend.” Aziraphale unfolded his arms to take Crowley’s face and tilt it up for a deep, languorous kiss, to which Crowley eagerly acquiesced. “Though, you know,” Aziraphale said, pulling away from the intoxicating slide of Crowley’s mouth, “if you’re serious about cataloguing my vulnerabilities, you should probably search the rest of me.” He smiled as innocently as he could manage, half-naked and tangled up with a serpent from the depths of Hell. “Just in the interest of thoroughness.”
“Yeah?” Crowley licked a path up the side of Aziraphale’s neck, then traced around the edge of his ear with his nose. “How much of the rest of you, exactly?” His tone was carefully neutral, balanced right on the edge between levity and lust: This can still be a joke if you want, just say the word. I’m not that kind of demon.
Aziraphale pulled him closer and answered with his lips just brushing Crowley’s ear: “All of the rest of me.” He took Crowley’s hand and moved it to his groin, pressing it into the fabric to feel the firm swell beneath. Crowley dropped his head to Aziraphale’s shoulder and hissed a long string of syllables in a language Aziraphale couldn’t identify, followed by something that sounded a lot like “thank you”— and while Aziraphale didn’t care to speculate as to who the intended recipient of this whispered gratitude might be, he suspected it wasn’t him.
Crowley’s mouth was back on his as he tugged purposefully at Aziraphale’s boxers. Aziraphale scrambled his hands under Crowley’s shirt, hungry for more of that warm, freckled skin and determined not to be the only one naked by the end of this. That neither of them seemed willing to stop kissing or touching for even the short time it would take to snap their clothes away complicated the process somewhat, but at last, Aziraphale had Crowley in his lap with nothing between them but a heated stare. He cupped his hand over Crowley’s jaw and gently tipped his head back, then pressed his mouth to the hollow of Crowley’s throat and tasted the faint aroma of soap that clung there— well, fancy that. He’d been right after all.
Aziraphale could feel more than hear Crowley’s appreciative hum as his lips moved over the demon’s skin. He bit down on the juncture of Crowley’s neck and shoulder just a shade too softly to bruise, and the groan that punched out of Crowley’s chest sent a jolt straight to Aziraphale’s aching cock. Crowley pulled back and locked eyes with Aziraphale, then dragged his tongue across his palm with exaggerated, deliberate lewdness and wedged his slicked hand between their bodies. He gave Aziraphale’s cock a few slow, firm strokes, pulling a quiet, helpless noise from Aziraphale with each one, and smiled. “I’m gonna make you feel so good, angel,” he whispered, and oh, hearing that old nickname flushed with new intent was even more affecting than Aziraphale had imagined it would be. Crowley’s fingers sparked flames that licked along Aziraphale’s nerves and settled low in his belly, sending his pulse thrumming as his pleasure built. He sucked in a sharp breath at a particularly delicious twist of Crowley’s wrist and lurched forward, clutching at Crowley’s shoulders.
Crowley stilled. “Too much?”
Aziraphale huffed a laugh. “No, it’s— you’re perfect. It’s just if we keep on like this, I’m afraid it might be over sooner than I’d like.” He kissed the corner of Crowley’s mouth and pushed him down onto his back in the tangled mess they’d made of the sheets. “Let me do something for you.”
Crowley’s chest rose and fell as he looked up at Aziraphale with something like dazed reverence. “Sure, yeah,” he breathed, “Whatever you like.”
Aziraphale smiled and turned his attention to Crowley’s neglected erection. It was just as beautiful as the rest of him, flushed red and smearing a streak of slick where it curved against his belly. Aziraphale brushed his fingers up its length, listening to the hitch in Crowley’s breath as he jumped under the touch, then rolled his palm back down to its base. Crowley arced upwards, chasing the pressure, and Aziraphale bent to kiss him. He kissed his way over Crowley’s mouth and jaw, down his throat, and across his chest, tonguing experimentally at one of his pert, pink nipples and drawing a soft moan from Crowley’s lips in the process— apparently, Crowley didn’t suffer the same ticklishness that Aziraphale did. With curiosity, Aziraphale lapped his tongue over Crowley’s nipple and gave it a firm, steady suck.
“Oh ffffuck—” Crowley thrust up into Aziraphale’s grip. His prick leaked a fresh trickle of precome and stiffened further under Aziraphale’s fingers, and he let his eyes drift closed. “Fuck, angel, that’s so good,” he panted, “keep doing that— please keep doing that, holy shit—”
Crowley twisted his fists in the sheets and writhed as Aziraphale wet the fingers of his free hand to circle Crowley’s other nipple, keeping up a steady, stroking rhythm on his cock. Aziraphale thrilled at all the broken, vulnerable sounds he could wring from Crowley’s body like this, humming and licking and sucking at his acutely responsive skin. He sighed into the sparse red hair that covered Crowley’s chest and couldn’t resist planting a kiss over his heart. “You’re a vision.”
“A-ah! A porny vision,” Crowley bit out, laughter cutting briefly through his moans. “But I guess that’s—ohh, yes, like that, just like that—guess that’s your specialty, right?”
Aziraphale nipped at Crowley’s neck. “I would hardly call the manifestation of divine love ‘porny,’ dear.”
“Yeah, I wouldn’t’ve either before about twenty minutes ag-oh fuck—” Aziraphale moved down the bed and hoisted Crowley’s knees over his shoulders to get his mouth on Crowley’s cock. Crowley thrust his hands into Aziraphale’s hair and bucked his hips. “Christ!”
Aziraphale pulled off with a wet pop and pouted. “Might you try blaspheming just slightly less?”
Crowley’s chest heaved and he dragged his fingers over Aziraphale’s cheek, letting his thumb catch on Aziraphale’s lip. “Mouth like that? Don’t really think I could, no.”
Aziraphale had lost count over the years of how many times Crowley had bragged, in myriad different contexts and with varying degrees of subtlety, of the many weird things he could do with his tongue. The implication had always been obvious, but in Aziraphale’s experience, people tended to overvalue dexterity when it came to the art of oral pleasure. Spelling out the alphabet and tying cherry stems into knots were certainly impressive feats, but he felt there was a lot to be said for simple consistency, dedication, and stamina— all of which Aziraphale possessed in abundance. And if Crowley’s lovely, wordless cries were any indication, it seemed Aziraphale might stand a chance of bringing him around on the matter at last.
“Gotta say, angel, this is n-n-nnggh-not a skill set I ever—a-aah!— expected you to have,” Crowley ground out between ragged breaths. “Not complaining, just—fuck, how—!”
Aziraphale curled his tongue and bobbed his head a few times before answering, plunging Crowley back into incoherence. He laid his head against Crowley’s hip with a sigh. “I don’t know why you’re acting so surprised— I did tell you, after all.” He smiled up at those golden eyes, blown wide with pleasure and glinting when they caught the light. “I’ve made saints come so hard they saw God.”
The short laugh that burbled up from Crowley’s chest sounded half-terrified and more than a little aroused. “Don’t get your hopes up,” he muttered as he carded his fingers through Aziraphale’s soft curls. “Or, wait, is that what this is? Some kind of sneaky, sexy plan to get me into bed and literally— fuck the Hell out of me?’
What Aziraphale meant to say to that was, “I’m almost certain that’s metaphysically impossible.” What he actually said, meeting Crowley’s eyes through his lashes and turning to brush his nose along the side of Crowley’s erection, letting his breath ghost across Crowley’s sensitive, overheated skin, was, “would you like that?”
Crowley scoffed reflexively, as though in self-defense: “I’d like to see you try.” Aziraphale licked slowly up the length of his cock, and a powerful shudder rolled through Crowley’s body as he made a noise like a wounded animal. “I really would though,” he said, his voice gone suddenly low and needy. “I really, really would, I would like that so much, Aziraphale, I would like that a lot, yes please.”
Aziraphale’s pulse leapt. He hadn’t expected— well, any of this, but certainly not Crowley’s ardent pleading, nor the heady way it stoked his own desire. “Right,” he said, raising himself up on his arms. “Then we should probably— we should— ah, do you have…” Aziraphale hesitated. Technically, there was nothing stopping him from summoning up what they needed, but there were some miracles you really, really didn’t want to have to explain on an expense report.
Crowley sat up and caught Aziraphale in a quick kiss. “Don’t worry, I’ve got us covered.” He reached over Aziraphale and across the bed, pressing his long torso up against Aziraphale’s side—and oh, didn’t that feel nice—and fumbled open the drawer on the nightstand, pulling out a bottle of lubricant. Aziraphale noted the absence of the sharp, charred taste that close proximity to demonic miracles usually produced in the back of his throat, and he knit his brow.
“Just… had that ready to go, did you?”
“Oh, yeah.” Crowley unscrewed the cap and picked at the foil seal beneath. “It’s the first thing I do, any hotel I stay at: find the Gideon, chuck it out, and replace it with some lube and a pack of rubbers.” He gave Aziraphale a lopsided smile. “Loads more useful.”
Aziraphale tipped forward until his head rested on Crowley’s shoulder, and he shook with silent laughter. “Of course that’s what you do.”
“I’m just doing my part to promote sexual health, aren’t I? You can’t fault me for that!”
“Because you can’t possibly fit condoms and a Bible in the same drawer.”
Crowley sighed. “If it’s really that important to you, angel, I can go fish it out of the bin—”
“No.” Aziraphale took one of Crowley’s hands in his and raised it to his mouth, kissing across the back of it and over his fingers. “No, I think you should not under any circumstances depart from this bed, not until we’ve made very— thorough— use—” —he emphasized each word with a press of his lips along the inside of Crowley’s wrist— “of your thoughtful and generous provisions.”
Crowley threaded his fingers through Aziraphale’s hair. “How do you say shit like that and make it sound so hot?” He brought their mouths together for a hungry kiss, then rested his forehead against Aziraphale’s. “D’you want me on my hands and knees?”
In fact, Aziraphale rather liked the idea of getting Crowley in his lap again, but the rushed, breathless way he’d asked made Aziraphale think this was something Crowley had imagined before—possibly often, and intimately—and that was its own kind of enticing. “That sounds wonderful,” he murmured, letting his lips linger over Crowley’s. He slid his hands down to Crowley’s waist. “Would you let me finger you?”
“Fuck yes, I want as much of you in me as I can get.” Crowley’s breath was hot as he mouthed along Aziraphale’s jaw. “You don’t have to treat me gentle.”
Aziraphale frowned at that. “I’m afraid I’m not really one for sadism…”
“Nah, I didn’t figure,” Crowley said, kissing a spot just below Aziraphale’s ear. “Just thought you should know I don’t mind— uh, I mean I…” He swallowed, and the corner of his mouth lifted in a nervous smile. “I like it a little rough.”
“Well, in that case…” Aziraphale moved his hands lower and flexed his fingers, testing his grip. He looked pensive. “I suppose we’ll just have to aim for a happy medium.”
With neither warning nor fanfare, he gripped Crowley’s waist and flipped him over, pinning him to the mattress with one arm bent behind his back. Aziraphale worried for a moment that he’d pushed too far, but the startled, shivery moan Crowley let out sounded nothing short of rapturous. He straddled Crowley’s thighs and sank down, resting more of his weight on the demon’s trapped arm, and Crowley positively whimpered at that.
“You seem to like this,” Aziraphale observed wonderingly, trailing his fingers down Crowley’s spine. “Being held down. Restrained.” He canted his hips forward to press his stiff cock up against Crowley’s backside. “Kept from acting on all those wicked little thoughts running through your head.” Crowley answered with an unintelligible noise and ground back against Aziraphale, and the angel smiled. “Is it possible you’ve got a bit of a thing for a good, hard thwarting?”
There was a low grumble in the back of Crowley’s throat. “Honestly, it’d be weirder if I didn’t.” He twisted around and shot Aziraphale an embarrassed look. “Don’t make a big thing out of it, okay?”
Aziraphale kissed the tip of his ear. “Of course not, darling.” He released Crowley’s arms, but kept his knees clamped firmly around Crowley’s legs as he slicked his fingers with lubricant and smoothed his hand over the demon’s back. Aziraphale worked a finger inside, moving at a relaxed pace, marveling at how eagerly Crowley’s body opened for him. He pulled Crowley up on to his knees with his head pressed down into the pillows. The new angle allowed him deeper and he eased a second finger alongside the first, prompting an encouragingly greedy sigh. He leaned forward and planted a kiss against Crowley’s shoulder. “Good?”
“S’good, ssso good,” came the slurred reply, “so fucking good, don’t stop.” Crowley groaned and pushed back on Aziraphale’s fingers, and the brazen want of it sent Aziraphale’s head swimming. “Come on, gimme another, I need to feel you.”
The hot stretch of Crowley around him made him ache with need, but Aziraphale kept his movements measured— as keenly as he wanted to pin Crowley’s wrists to the headboard and make him scream, this slow, steady unraveling was too sweet to rush. Aziraphale drank in the sounds of Crowley’s mounting desperation, savoring the feel of him under his hands as he writhed and squirmed and fought to fuck himself on Aziraphale’s fingers. “Swear to god, angel,” he panted, “if you don’t put it in me right now I think I’m gonna die.”
“Wanton, insatiable, and blasphemous,” Aziraphale noted, barely managing to keep the tremor out of his voice as he withdrew his hand. “Quite the combination.”
“Aziraphale, shut up and fuck me.”
Aziraphale steadied a possessive hand on Crowley’s hip. “All right,” he purred, “but only because you asked so nicely.”
The long, slow slide into Crowley’s body was overwhelming. Aziraphale was no stranger to sexual pleasure, but he’d never made love without the benefit of celestial control over his corporeal form. Its absence rendered all his physical sensations much more immediate— and so much louder— making demands of his body that he struggled to refuse. He’d barely worked the head of his cock in when he had to stop and dig his fingers into Crowley’s sides, breathing heavily as he tried to quiet the hot, pounding thing inside him that urged him forward and growled for more— he feared that if he didn’t, he might embarrass himself in very short order.
Crowley didn’t seem to care. He pushed back against Aziraphale, striving to take more of him. “C’mon, harder, please—” Aziraphale exhaled slowly and pulled Crowley’s hips flush against his, sheathing his full length in Crowley’s arse.
He closed his eyes. “Oh— Crowley— the way you feel—”
“Yeah,” Crowley answered on a shaky exhale, “same.” Aziraphale pulled back for a slow thrust and Crowley rolled his hips to meet it, snaking a hand between his legs to work over his own cock. “Fuck, angel, you feel amazing, why didn’t we ever try this before?”
“Oh... plenty of reasons, probably,” Aziraphale replied absently, finding a rhythm and rocking into Crowley with more vigor. “Though I confess, presently— none of them come to mind.” Crowley moaned and flung a hand up over his head to grip the sheets. The muscles of his back flexed with each of Aziraphale’s thrusts, and he turned his head to the side to pant against the mattress, slack-jawed and eyes clouded with lust.
Aziraphale stroked his hand down Crowley’s thigh. “You’re beautiful like this,” he whispered.
Crowley blushed and hid his face. “Shut up.”
“You are.” Aziraphale leaned forward and wrapped an arm around Crowley’s waist, holding him close and speaking against his skin. “You’re the most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen.”
“Aziraphaaale...” Crowley whined and wriggled in Aziraphale’s grasp. “Don’t give me compliments while you’ve got your cock in me, pick one or the other! I can’t take both.”
Aziraphale laughed and kissed down Crowley’s spine, straightening up and shifting his angle in a way that made Crowley gasp and shudder. He really was beautiful. To paint any more perfect a picture than this—Crowley spread out before him, open and unguarded and utterly undone with desire, Aziraphale’s to touch, caress and adore—would take a miracle.
Well… only a very small one…
Aziraphale bit his lip and pressed his thumbs into the hollows under Crowley’s shoulder blades, sliding between molecules to dip surreptitiously into extradimensional space, and Crowley jerked and swore as his wings suddenly sprang forth from the ether.
“I’m sorry, I know I shouldn’t have.” Aziraphale’s voice was rushed and apologetic as he skimmed his hands over Crowley’s back and combed his fingers through the demon’s glossy black feathers, soft and dark as midnight. “I just— I wanted to see all of you…” Crowley started to turn around, but yelped as the movement unbalanced Aziraphale, who floundered unthinkingly and, in an attempt to stay upright, yanked down hard on the wing he’d been admiring.
“Oh no!” Aziraphale squeaked and covered his mouth. “I’ve hurt you!”
Crowley shivered in stunned silence. “Yes,” he breathed, eyes gone wide and glassy, sounding like he’d hauled the words up out of the very depths of his soul. “Do it again.”
Aziraphale blinked. Hesitantly, he sank his fingers into Crowley’s downy coverts. He hooked his hands over the bend where wing met skin and tugged.
Crowley cried out and went limp and pliant, like all his joints had turned to melted wax. “Keep— keep doing that,” he gasped, “It feels— fuck, I don’t know why it feels so good. Just pull on them while you’re fucking me, please.”
Heart hammering in his throat, Aziraphale moved his hands down Crowley’s wings, spreading them wide, and gripped them for leverage on his next thrust. Crowley wailed.
“Fuck, yes, yes— yes!”
The litany of yes and angel and various choked-off syllables that might have been pieces of Aziraphale’s name grew louder as he fucked Crowley hard and steady, pulling on his wings like a horse’s reins. Feathers bent under his fingers and sweat ran down into the creases of his knees, and Aziraphale’s world narrowed down to nothing but Crowley’s desperate voice and the hot, vibrant thrash of Crowley’s body beneath him. He slid his hand down Crowley’s arm and laced their fingers together. “I won’t last,” he rasped against the demon’s shoulder.
“Don’t want you to,” Crowley ground out, clutching Aziraphale’s hand and squeezing tight. “Come in me, angel, I want it—” And that was all it took to tip Aziraphale over the edge, burying himself deep and spilling into Crowley with a ragged shout.
As the rush of orgasm receded, Aziraphale pulled out and rolled Crowley onto his side, dropping to the bed alongside him to take hold of his eager, twitching cock. Crowley whined and panted into Aziraphale’s mouth. He kept his eyes shut tight while Aziraphale stroked him, but they flew open—shocked, unfocused, the color of saffron and sunrise—as he came messily over Aziraphale’s fingers.
A fuzzy sort of silence settled over them as they lay side by side, taking deep breaths and staring numbly at one another while the world came back into focus, drifting on a sea of endorphins. Aziraphale couldn’t remember the last time he’d seen Crowley look so soft and unguarded, all rounded edges and loosened knots— he wondered if he looked much the same, himself.
Crowley’s mouth twitched. His shoulders shook and the corners of his eyes crinkled up, and it took Aziraphale a moment to realize that Crowley was laughing. Not laughing at, either: he was very clearly laughing with, tugging Aziraphale with him into that warm, secret world of shared glee. He pulled Aziraphale close and caught his mouth in a sloppy, worn-out kiss. “What the Heaven was that?”
Aziraphale gave him a shy smile. “Well... I believe we just had sex. Isn’t that what the kids are calling it these days?”
Crowley barked a laugh. “Yeah, I’ll say we did.” He stretched one of his wings up over his head, arching his back and cracking his joints. “Satan’s tits, angel, I haven’t been fucked that well in… ever.”
Aziraphale blushed, but his face contracted in worry as he scanned the crooked lines of Crowley’s primaries. “Oh, your wings— are they hurt? I fear I handled them rather indelicately.”
“Nah, I’m fine. Just some ruffled feathers. Definitely worth the preening I’ll have to give ‘em tomorrow.” Crowley rolled his shoulders and tucked his wings away, folding them back into their usual pocket dimension. He gave Aziraphale a quizzical look. “How’d you do that, anyway? Bring my wings out?”
It was Aziraphale’s turn to laugh now. “You’ll think I’m terribly childish, but…” He grinned sheepishly. “It’s an old prank.”
“An angel prank.”
“You’re telling me there’s such a thing as an angel prank?”
“Well, let’s say you run into another angel while you’re both corporeal— on assignment, maybe. If you’re clever about it, you can sort of… sneak up behind them and…” Aziraphale walked his fingers up Crowley’s arm in a tiptoeing motion, then burst open his hand and wiggled his fingers, beaming from ear to ear. “Pop their wings.”
Crowley’s tone was deadpan. “…you sneak up and pop their wings.”
Aziraphale smothered a giggle. “The best way to do it is to wait until right before they have to walk through a doorway—it’s tremendous fun!”
Something softened in Crowley’s expression, shifting under the surface like the flash of a fish’s scales in a deep, still pond. The smile that stole over his face was bewildered and delighted and filled with such glowing fondness that Aziraphale could feel it light up the room. “And here I was, thinking you were done surprising me for one day,” he murmured, gathering Aziraphale to his chest and kissing him soundly, sweetly, thoroughly, before pulling back to nuzzle his hair. “Show me how it works.”
“Because then you’d use it against me.”
“Yeah, obviously, that’s why I want you to show me!”
Aziraphale swatted playfully at Crowley. “If I taught you how to do it, you’d do it constantly. I’d never get any work done!” As soon as the words left his lips, the thought of work punctured Aziraphale’s bubble of happiness as efficiently as if an official reprimand had dropped straight down from Heaven into his lap. His face fell. “That is, of course… assuming I still have work, after all this,” he said, his gaze sliding away from Crowley’s face.
A crease appeared on the demon’s brow. “Hey, don’t fret about it, yeah?” He rubbed Aziraphale’s shoulder, uncertainty warring with the comfort in his voice. “Nobody’s gonna find out about any of this. You said it yourself, they’re not paying any attention if you’re not using up your share of the miracles. And even if they notice the stuff with the Satanists, you stopped before the wankers showed up— it’ll look like a perfectly legitimate thwarting, I can even back you up on it if they need proof you were foiling my ‘fiendish plans.’ You’re safe, angel. I promise.” He kissed Aziraphale. “And, uh, about this part of… all this…” He gestured vaguely with his chin, indicating the naked sprawl of their sweat-slicked bodies. “Obviously I’m not telling anyone. None of their business, is it? Just between us.” Aziraphale felt Crowley’s arms suddenly go stiff around him. “Of course, if you don’t want— this doesn’t have to change anything. With us, I mean.” He swallowed. “S’a weird situation, isn’t it? Unique circumstances and all. It can just be, y’know, that weird thing that happened in Kansas once.”
“Yes…” Aziraphale frowned, slightly. “Once…”
Crowley forced a smile. “Yeah, ‘cause once you’re back to your old self, got your powers and all, you won’t have to muck around with any of these— weird body things. Weird, totally normal body things. That we don’t have to feel weird about, because they’re normal. And you won’t have to worry about them, anyway, since—”
“That’s true, I won’t have to,” Aziraphale said, cutting Crowley off and taking hold of one of his hands. He looked into Crowley’s worried eyes and squeezed. “But… I might. Kinda want to.” He smiled. “A little?”
Crowley barely breathed, and didn’t blink. “It’d be risky.”
“Oh, extremely. If anyone found out—”
“—we’d hang, both of us, no question.”
“Hanging would be the least of our troubles, I expect. Torture and interrogation seem more likely.”
“And not the normal kind of torture, either— no thumb screws and acid pits for us, no firing up the old penis-flattener. They’d make us test subjects for a whole slew of exciting new ways to suffer.” Crowley let that thought sit for a moment. Then he raised an eyebrow, and lifted his shoulder in a delicate shrug. “But, you know. If that’s all that stopping us…”
Aziraphale felt warmth spreading through him all the way to the tips of his toes. “We can sleep on it.”
Crowley smiled. “Yeah… yeah we can.” He reached over Aziraphale and pulled the covers up around their shoulders, ducking in to plant a kiss on Aziraphale’s forehead. “Night, angel.”
Aziraphale tucked his face into the curve of Crowley’s neck and sighed happily. “Sweet dreams, demon.”
As he drifted off, Aziraphale felt Crowley’s fingers combing through the hair on the back of his neck, brushing over his shoulders, stroking along his back… and prodding, gently, all the way down. He chuckled and smiled against Crowley’s skin. “I’m not telling you how it works.”
Crowley squeezed Aziraphale closer. “Oh, I’ll figure it out, just you wait,” he declared, poking at Aziraphale’s spine with more determination. “And then one day, when you least expect it, I’m gonna creep up behind you and—pow! You’ll never see it coming.”
“Mmm, I’ll hold you to it.” Aziraphale slung his arm around Crowley’s waist as a heavy, bone-deep exhaustion settled over him, and Crowley’s soft laughter was the last thing he heard as he sank at last into the sweet embrace of sleep.