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Growing When I Shouldn't

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Aziraphael stared at his Adversary, the Serpent of Eden. It always seemed a fitting name, no matter whether his form was that of an actual snake or not. A poisonous lushness and lively slenderness was suggested by it that was always followed through on. As usual, this corporation had black hair that fell in a well cared for sheet. As usual, it combined harsh definition with long, sweeping curves. As usual, it was made for the express purpose of doing exactly the wrong thing to everyone around it.

Currently, Aziraphael was watching him from across a plaza. Crowley himself was leaning against a low stone wall, his face tilted up towards the sun.

Aziraphael had honestly, not meant to run into him. Er, see him. Same difference, really.

Aziraphael found him staring a little longer as a breeze played with Crowley's hair, which was, as always, as long as he could possibly manage without seeming too strange. Whatever Crowley was doing in Rome, it couldn't be good. Likely, it had something to do with the ever so rapid changing of emperors going on right now. And likely the corruption in them as well.

He'd have to handle it, now that he knew the likely cause.

Aziraphael calmly made his way through the people milling about until he was on the same side of the plaza as Crowley. He stayed a good few yards away, watching him as he attempted to look casual.

There was the opening to an alley a few more yards away, after the wall melded into a building. He could grab him by the arm and pull him in there and…

And…

Do what, exactly?

Aziraphael wasn't unarmed. This wasn't a minor issue going on that could be… left to someone else. Crowley was very likely involved. The logical thing to do would be to discorporate him, and attempt to influence political discourse a bit more to set the scale in his sides favor.

These days, things were starting to feel less logical. Maybe it was the near four thousand and a half years spent mostly away from heaven. Maybe it was the mess that happened two centuries ago that he found himself still shaken and a bit confused by. Maybe it was just how tired the past century had made him feel.

Suddenly, he saw Crowley tense. He lowered his head slightly, his dark hair moving to cover his face. He sensed something was up. Aziraphael felt his heart get a bit fast. He'd have to act now.

Aziraphael broke into a slight sprint, grabbing Crowley’s wrist with a hard yank for good measure, hoping to throw him off balance. Crowley stumbled behind him, too startled at first to do anything.

As Aziraphael pulled them both into the alley, Crowley got back his balance, and immediately yanked his hand harshly out of the angel’s grip. He hooked his foot around Aziraphael's leg and pushed on his shoulder blades. Aziraphale hit the wall of the alley face first with a slight crunch. Blood started to trickle down his face.

Aziraphael cautiously got up as Crowley took a step back, eyeing him warily. Then, recognition slid over his features. He looked at his wrist, where Aziraphael had grabbed him. His skin was tinged red and slightly burned. He frowned at the lightness of the damage, and put his hand behind his back. “Angel,” he started, “what, if I may ask, the fuck?”

Aziraphael wiped the blood away from his face. It wouldn't do for someone to walk by and notice the golden flecks in it. “Do I really have to explain what we've been doing for the past four thousand years?”

“No, that I understand.” Crowley warily took a step a little back and to the side. “What I don't understand is why you…” he trailed off, losing the words. A second later, he continued, as if he had found them. “Or why- why I almost didn't notice you touching me.”

That had been odd. “I don't know.” Aziraphael admitted. Then he froze. In the mouth of the alley, a man shaped being stood.

“Aziraphael?” The other angel asked. “Having trouble here?”

Crowley froze as well. He looked around desperately for a way out. There wasn't one. Behind his angel, there was a wall. Climbing up would be far too hard. Trying to get past the other angel would get him stabbed and immediately discorporated.

“No.” Aziraphael said, finding his voice. “No trouble at all.” Aziraphael searched for a name that might match that presence, but there was none he knew.

The angel flicked their wrist with a shrug. A blade appeared, already cutting through the air. Aziraphael tensed even more, a strange, deeply hidden part of him wanting to protect Crowley, because he knew him and he was his. Instead, he grabbed the demon’s wrists and covered his mouth as the other angel stabbed and twisted the blade in Crowley's back. Crowley screamed into his palm, tears immediately spilling from his eyes and burning the demons skin. The blade burned him too, and Aziraphael felt his stomach twist at the smell. The other angel pulled out its blade. Crowley's body sagged, leaning against Aziraphale.

“I'll handle it from here.” Aziraphael said, feeling disconnected from his body. “There's invariably other things that need one of us to help with.”

The other angel hummed. “I suppose so. Not like there's much left to do except make sure he bleeds out, anyways.” It left.

Aziraphael swore that the worst thing about it was it's flippancy. He rested Crowley on his stomach. The demon was still alive. He would certainly be in trouble for what he did next, but if he didn't… he wasn't sure what he'd do to himself.

Aziraphael let his hand get hot, channeling the fiery core of his being through it. He put his hand firmly down on Crowley's wound. Crowley's body immediately began to spasm and a ragged noise came from his throat.

“Shhh.” Aziraphael murmured gently. “I'm helping you, you stupid snake.” He pulled his hand away. The blood had stopped, and if what he had done worked, the organs inside would be well on their way to recovery. “It'll scar, but you'll be fine.” His own hand would scar as well, and that would likely be what got him caught for this.

“W-why,” Crowley tried to speak.

“...I don't know.” Aziraphael admitted again. “Just be grateful, I guess.”

And that was were he left his adversary. Burned, but alive. And not knowing why he had.

 

They met a few times again. Those had not had the same mercy that had tinged the first time Aziraphael had healed him. It was regarded as a fluke by them both. Sometimes ‘good’ instincts overrided each other, or something.

It was on the tail end of one of those merciless encounters, while they both lay bleeding, that they had come to an agreement.

“You know,” Crowley said, pinned under Aziraphael’s exhausted body, “as fun as this is, is there a point to it?”

Aziraphael groaned. If he had any strength to move, he'd be finishing this up. Instead he'd have to listen to Crowley and his neurotic rambling.

“Don't you groan at me.” Crowley said, his voice muffled by Aziraphael’s chest. “It's not like we really see any of the bastards who tell us that we need to bash each other's brains out. It's not like they know what it's like down here. Most of them can't stand it.”

“And?”

“Isn't it a better idea to help each other?”

Aziraphael tried to look at Crowley in suprise, then remembered that he had pinned Crowley's face under his breastbone. “No- what- what are you even suggesting?”

Crowley wiggled under Aziraphael, trying to get unpinned, before giving up. “You do good. I don't step on your toes about it. I do bad. You don't step on my toes about it. We don't kill each other.”

“We already don't kill each other-”

“We do.” Crowley said, wretchedly. “Just because we come back doesn't make it not be killing. Just because we're on opposite sides does not make it not be killing. We kill each other for people who don't even bother to look at this world we're on that we're supposed to affect and only seem to care about cold, nonsense things-”

“All right, you've made your point.” Aziraphael interrupted. Crowley wasn't… a good being to get riled like that. He needed to be derailed, or he'd get so stressed that he'd often start crying, and when he cried, he burned. “I don't… suppose it would be horrible to try.”

Crowley sighed. “Good.” He lifted his hand with a lot of effort, and smacked it on top of Aziraphael’s. Aziraphael noticed that strangely, the touch did not burn. “Deal.”

“What was that?” Aziraphael asked, amused.

“I dunno. Felt important to do.” Crowley sighed. “Now that we've agreed not to kill each other, could you get off me?”

Aziraphael rolled over with a grunt, still pinning Crowley's arm. He didn't quite trust him that much yet. Crowley breathed a sigh of relief.

Aziraphael looked over at him. Crowley was bleeding sluggishly from several cuts on his face and body that he'd inflicted on him with a now broken dagger. Aziraphael, on the other hand, mostly had bruises. He was bleeding from the places Crowley had bit him, though.

That had made him feel funny things, Crowley biting him. Especially when Crowley had pinned him to the ground and bitten him on the neck. Aziraphale brushed his hand over a cut on Crowley's cheek. It healed, and doing so left a tingling sensation in his fingers. Not burning, though, like it usually would. Crowley made a sound of thanks.

They laid there a bit. This place was abandoned. No one would bother them.

It was when Crowley started to shiver that Aziraphael got up. He lifted Crowley onto his feet, and let him lean on him. “Let me guess,” he said, as Crowley's teeth began to chatter, “snake physiology?”

“Sssspot on.” Crowley leaned hard into Aziraphael, more for warmth than anything else. “I hate thessssse fucking cassstless. They make it sssso much worsse.”

“Maybe that's why they're built this way.” Aziraphael wrapped an arm around Crowley, leaning on him for support. He'd cracked his head on various pieces of the walls and floor a few times. “To keep you out.”

“Who, me?” Crowley laughed. “I'm not even the worsssst low ranking demon.”

“But you are active.” Aziraphael led Crowley down a hall. He'd seen a room with wood and a fireplace.

“True.” Crowley conceded. Aziraphael found the room and pushed Crowley down onto a bed in there. “What're you doing, angel?”

“Getting you warm, serpent. It seems like a good way to start this agreement off, don't you think?” Aziraphael piled the pieces of the chair Crowley had broken earlier into the fireplace. A few seconds of him holding his hand in the middle of the pile, and it was burning.

Crowley had wrapped some of the bed linens around him already, and quietly made his way over to sit by the fire. Aziraphael looked at him once, and immediately looked away.

Crowley was… he was something. The firelight only made him look more something. It made an itch and a heat build in Aziraphael’s mind and body. Half of him wanted to burn Crowley and watch the firelight dance over his face as he screamed and writhed in exquisite pain. The other half, which had been growing over the centuries, wanted to make Crowley scream and writhe in a very… different way. That same part of him had more than reared its head a few times when Aziraphael had Crowley's body pinned beneath him.

And, Aziraphael realized, it was doing that now. Thank… something, that Crowley wouldn't have been able to tell, even if he'd been looking at him. Quite a few trends of clothing were ridiculous, but at least a heavy tunic could help you hide most troubles you had with regard to certain organs.

He watched Crowley tense, then relax. Probably getting used to being able to trust me being behind him, Aziraphael thought. He scolded his insides a bit, still watching Crowley, which was rather counterproductive, but he couldn't quite make himself stop. A part of him was bitter. He was a servant of heaven, meant to be permanently selfless, never wanting for anything. A perfect little helper. He wanted things, even so. And he wouldn't necessarily get them, but he could indulge his fantasies of wanting, dammit, and he would do so till it got too much to do without actually getting what he wanted. So if he wanted Crowley, he would look at Crowley all he liked and think about him however he liked, and no one would ever know because he knew that heaven could not know one's thoughts when he had lied that he lost his sword, and had only gotten demoted.

It was a good thing that no one feel because of wanting. Aziraphael sighed and got up, looking away from Crowley. He picked up some more pieces of wood and threw them in the fire.

Crowley looked up at him with a quiet curiosity on his eyes. “Angel?”

“Aziraphael.” Aziraphael muttered. “We should… call each other our names now.”

“Aziraphale.” Crowley said. Aziraphael didn't correct his pronunciation. He liked it better, actually.

You like the thought of being named by him, a part of him whispered, even if it's small. Of being owned. Of owning.

Aziraphale immediately decided to ignore that part of himself forever.

“Aziraphale,” Crowley said again, pulling the bed linens tighter around him, “did you agree to test this out just so I would stop talking?”

Aziraphale felt himself smile.

 

Not long after the fire (the Great Fire, they were calling it, great), Crowley came knocking on Aziraphale's door.

Aziraphale looked at him tiredly through the stained glass. His shop hadn't burned, but it had been close. Keeping fire at bay for several days had been exhausting, even for him. But almost 50 people had their homes and livelihoods saved by the fact that fire had seemed to just blow right past them, and that was worth the fact that he'd actually had to sleep and eat for the past few days.

He opened the door slightly. “What.” Crowley looked nice, as per usual. Latest fashion of dress, hair kept long, a strange, too healthy glow to him. If Aziraphale had looked closer, he would've noticed that that glow had diminished, his hair was disheveled, and that he had a purple tinge to the skin around his eyes.

“You need to get out of the shop for awhile.” Aziraphale noticed that Crowley had a basket resting by his feet. “You're weakened, and in this state you need to take care of yourself like a human would.”

“And?” Aziraphale looked up at Crowley. His eyes shone amber from underneath the brim of his hat. A man's hat, a lady's dress… some things about Crowley were fixed, and that was a comfort. He wondered if Crowley had been involved in the fire.

“And breathing in dust and ash isn't good for you.” Crowley cautiously put his hand on Aziraphale's. Touching each other hadn't burned for centuries, but even so, there was that moment of hesitation.

Aziraphale sighed. Tempter. But he was right. “Fine. Fine.” He opened the door all the way and left the threshold of his shop for the first time in days, locking the door behind him. Crowley brightened slightly.

“I have a place in mind.” he said, and started leading Aziraphale through London. Aziraphale immediately noticed that Crowley was avoiding any streets that carried any too obvious markers of the flames. It led to them taking an almost nonsensical path. It took Aziraphale a second, but he realized that Crowley was leading them towards the Tower.

They passed it without Crowley giving it as much as a glance and kept going. The evidence was around them now, too bold to ignore. Charred buildings crumbled. Ash blackened anything that hadn't burned. Aziraphale found himself staring at it, the evidence of tragedy, even as Crowley insistently pulled him along.

By the time they got where Crowley had been leading them, the sun was beginning to set. The scene before them was… idyllic. A tavern sat a few yards back from the river, and the bank was green and lush. A couple sat on a blanket not far away, conspicuously not wearing wedding bands. Crowley sat down on the bank, not even the slightest bit graceful or dignified. The couple glared at him and Aziraphale could've sworn he heard them mutter about “Moorish manners”. He shot them a glare of his own, hoping the dying red of the sun reflecting off his auburn hair made him look less like a tired excuse of a man and more like an escaped petal of fire. He sat next to Crowley.

“It's nice here.” Aziraphale said a while later, when the sun was almost down. It was a lame attempt at conversation and they both knew it.

“I figured it would be.” Crowley rested his elbows on his knees. “It's a bit far though, when you can't fly.”

Aziraphale started slightly. How did Crowley know he was that weak right now?

Crowley opened his basket. “Wine?” he asked, pulling out a bottle.

“Oh, yes.” Crowley's taste in wines wasn't great, but unless he had managed to get vinegar, nothing could be so bad as to put him in a worse mood.

Crowley pulled out a metal cup, filled it, and handed it over. Aziraphale drank deeply. Crowley had picked a very good wine. He sighed, and Crowley filled a cup of his own and drained it.

The couple that had earlier glared at the two of them got up, suddenly giggling. They stumbled towards the tavern behind them.

“Wonder what they're doing…” Crowley said, watching them a bit.

Aziraphale snorted, his tongue a little loser with wine. “Probably going off to have sex.”

“Oh.” Crowley's face suddenly looked much more flushed.

“Tell me you aren't embarrassed, my dear.” Aziraphale looked at Crowley a little more closely. He was. Aziraphale snorted again.

“What?” Crowley’s cheeks looked like he had stamped rogue onto them and decided against blending it. “I just… it'ss jusst…”

“You're the Serpent, the original tempter, and yet you-” Aziraphale laughed, “you get embarrassed by people having flings.”

“I don't sssee the point.” Crowley muttered before taking a long swig of wine. Aziraphale found himself staring at Crowley's collar bones. Found himself… thinking. Wanting. He'd been working on not doing that, since he'd gotten his bookshop. He had something now, he had something that satisfied his wants, so it should've stopped.

Even so, it really should've been a crime for Crowley to wear a dress like that. All bright orange, with a delicate kerchief tucked in the neck for modesty, ribbons on the collar, on the sleeves...

“The point offfff..?”

Crowley sighed, tilting his head back and letting his hair fall from his shoulders. The points of his fangs glinted slightly in the starlight. “Having that- that kind of… intimacy with ssssomeone you don't really care about.”

Aziraphale stared a moment more before looking away. “Has anyone ever told you that you're quite odd, for a demon?”

Crowley laughed, resting back on his elbows. “Not to my face, no.” Aziraphale found himself thinking again. About the volume of Crowley's skirts, specifically. And how they would feel bunched up. And what he might have on under them.

He took another drink of wine, this time straight from the bottle. He was just upset. That was all. He was in a weakened state, he was very drunk, he was not in a good mental state after almost losing his little piece of London, and Crowley just happened to be a familiar face.

“Crowley?”

Crowley didn't respond. Aziraphale looked over to him. Crowley had ended up lying down in the grass, his hat half crushed behind his head, asleep. A slight snore started to come from him. Aziraphale sighed. He got up, a little unsteady, and bent over Crowley.

“Crowley.” He said, shaking his shoulders. Crowley frowned, now only half asleep.

“Mm.” He groaned. “Don’ wanna get up, ‘Ssssirahphale.” Aziraphale laughed a bit. Crowley was a little too fond of sleep. Crowley frowned some more, his eyes fluttering slightly open. “Your breath ssmellss funny, angel.”

“Does it?” Aziraphale played a bit with a stray lock of Crowley's hair. “I really can't imagine why.”

“Don't be a smart asss.” This time, Crowley's tongue flicked slightly out of his mouth.

“Are you really this exhausted? Because there's no way you're even near pass out drunk, dear.” Aziraphale let his head drop to Crowley's chest. A slight impression of scales dug into part of his forehead.

“You weren't the only one doing damage control, Ssirah.” Crowley's hand rested on Aziraphale's. “That fire would've been a lot worse if I hadn't…” Crowley trailed off. Aziraphale's heart hurt a bit. “Don't get mopey.” Crowley said, suddenly. “I'm not… good or whatever elsse you think. I don't like moving, and it'sss easssy to get credit for thingss without doing much at all here, and it jussss’ takes a little push to get-”

“Crowley?”

“Yessss, angel?”

“Hush.” Aziraphale moved a bit so that he was laying by Crowley, his cheek resting on his chest. He was still having thoughts, but that wasn't important. “Just… hush. It's okay. Enjoy the night, because we're okay.”

Crowley took a minute to respond. “Alright.”