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Cobwebs of Firmament

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Crowley’s hair, Aziraphale would freely admit, was ridiculous. It was thick, and ostentatiously silky, and whenever it was even vaguely fashionable, he wore it long. And Aziraphale could never quite be sure if it was part of the same curse that had landed him with those bright, indelible yellow eyes, or just simple vanity, but it was always, always the same colour, which was to say a rich, deep red.

It had been, presumably, intended as a sort of indicator of Hell, of fire and blood— and it might have worked, even, if there hadn’t been something so pretty about it. Or if Crowley hadn’t been so disgustingly vain.

In Aziraphale’s mind, it was the colour of decadence: the colour of nights huddled together and fire-lit wine and the surprising warmth of being in the company of a friend.

It wasn’t subtle, of course— well, Crowley had stuck out like a sore thumb for a good few millennia to begin with. But when you looked closer there were more colours to it, golds and browns scattered amongst the red, a shifting multitude of hues, and it did look like fire, then, almost alive with the aching detail of it, the aching detail of Crowley and all his sudden, jarring little contradictions. Because that was Crowley, Aziraphale supposed, and that was him, even if he didn’t like to admit it: blatantly one thing at first glance, but a touch more subtle, more complex when you looked again, the kind of detail you could stare in the face for centuries only to have it suddenly leap out at you, so staggering in its clarity that you wondered how on Earth you hadn’t seen it before.

And in the meantime, Crowley’s hair was long and short and long again, in tight, coiled ringlets or loose waves, gilded by crowns or circlets, scarves or hats.

Aziraphale’s body, when he’d been given one prior to his assignment outside Eden, had had short, simple hair— white-blond, almost ghostly. The Heavenly standard: easy to maintain and practical. He’d run a hand through it, the soft spring of curls, and then hadn’t really given it another thought for a good few thousand years.

He’d never really gotten the point of hair, to begin with.

When he saw Crowley, hair flowing and long and artfully arranged to pick out all the sharp, achingly familiar details of his face, pulled back and secured just so, when the sun picked out highlights of gold and the whole lustrous mass of it almost seemed to glow… then Aziraphale thought he might understand it a bit better.

And then you had nights like these, and Aziraphale wondered why he didn’t just shave it all off and be done with it.

He whacked Crowley on the head with the mother-of-pearl back of his hairbrush, and Crowley yowled.

“Sit still ,” ordered Aziraphale with what he thought was a truly divine amount of patience, and Crowley contorted his head in a way that would surely have snapped a human neck in order to glare up at him.

“You’re pulling,” he said petulantly, arms folded sulkily in front of his chest from his perch on the bookshop floor, nestled in between the angel’s legs. Crowley had taken his sunglasses off, so as to keep them out of the way, and he held them clenched tight in one elegant fist, turning them over thoughtfully— in the moments when his attention wasn’t utterly focused on berating Aziraphale, of course. The angel, for his part, shot an utterly exasperated look at the top of Crowley’s head from his vantage point on one of the bookshop’s truly horrific (in Crowley’s unhumble opinion, anyway) tartan armchairs.

“If you’re not happy, you know, you could always just miracle it done yourself,” Aziraphale said waspishly. There had been a point in time, somewhere around their second millennia on Earth, when they had somehow gotten into the habit of conducting this little ritual about once a century, and it had almost always ended in an argument of some sort. It was looking very much as though this hadn’t changed.

“That dries it out, I’ve told you,” Crowley said. “And besides, you’re better at getting all the tangles out— if you don’t know exactly where they are, they’re blessed difficult to miracle away, you know.”

Aziraphale let out a distinctly derisive sort of sniff. They fell silent for a few moments, and he went back to braiding, neat, deft fingers slowly carding through auburn tresses, over and under, letting himself sink into the pattern of it.

“I have to pull, or it’ll end up uneven,” Aziraphale ventured after a while, and this time it was Crowley’s turn to snort.

“Yeah, but you don’t have to be so bloody sadistic about it,” he said, but even if he couldn’t see it, Aziraphale thought he could hear the faint hint of a smile in his voice.

Aziraphale smiled back, unseen, and threaded another lock of hair into its place.

He hadn’t the foggiest clue, a week after the world had failed to end, quite why Crowley, whose hair had gotten progressively shorter as the last few decades went by— well, barring the Nanny Ashtoreth business, of course, but it had been exclusively in a ruthless bun back then— had suddenly burst into the bookshop with red-gold hair eddying down almost to his waist and a demand for Aziraphale to braid it, like he had in the old days.

But for all the fuss Aziraphale had made of being disturbed in his reading, it was… nice. Soothing, Crowley’s hair soft and pliant under his fingers, hands relaxing into patterns they hadn’t known they remembered. Even their arguments were more familiar than anything else, without any bite to them, retracing the same over-under pattern as his hands.

And the figure of Crowley, pressed against the bottom of his legs, cross-legged and angular, a small puddle of warm limbs— he’d missed this, Aziraphale realised, this small contact. He wondered why they’d stopped.

He tugged his brush absently through a particularly stubborn tangle, and Crowley let out a remarkably affronted hiss.

Aziraphale raised his eyes to the Heavens, let out a passive-aggressive sigh he’d been perfecting for milenia, and continued.

Crowley, typically, gave his hair free rein to actually act like hair, which was to say grow, despite the fact that it never needed to be washed and that he wouldn’t have had the faintest idea of what a split end was had one averted the apocalypse. And when he decided on one of his all-too frequent style changes, Crowley would usually cut it himself with a straight-backed pair of silver scissors, or more recently, with the help of the most expensive hairdresser money could buy, rather than willing it into shape. But he couldn’t have grown it out so quickly in the few days since Aziraphale had last seen him, which meant he’d miracled it, shaped it out of scraps of firmament. Which meant something, even if Aziraphale couldn’t quite put his finger on just what it was at that very moment.

All of this meant something. The hair. Crowley’s presence, how, despite his complaints, he’d quickly acquiesced to Aziraphale’s ministrations. How dreadfully familiar, comfortable the soft weight of Crowley was, pressed against him.

Well, Aziraphale knew what it meant, really, but he hadn’t the words to express it, nor the courage, and so he remained quiet and so he continued to braid.

Over and under, over and under. He took his time: one large braid, serpentine, almost, coiling down the centre, and then others, varying in size, some utterly invisible unless Crowley felt the need to go digging through his mane of hair to find them.

It was always the little things in the end, with them. Subtle, always subtle, always afraid to cross some invisible line and bring this invisible thing between them shattering down, have Heaven and Hell abruptly notice quite how far things had gone.

Because the line kept moving. More and more things that Aziraphale had once found unimaginable were now… not.

They’d stopped the apocalypse. Or, well, Adam had, really, but they’d been there while he did so, at any rate. They’d directly gone against their entire purpose, defied Heaven and Hell, and nothing had happened.

And Crowley was pressed up close against Aziraphale’s legs, and he could feel the warmth of him through the thick corduroy of his trousers, and he was braiding his hair, and had been for the last few hours, and on and off for the past few hundred years, and nothing had happened.

And was it so outlandish, then, to think that nothing much would happen if he were to kiss Crowley?

Aziraphale let another finished braid slide gently out of his hands, and realised that he hadn’t heard Crowley complain about anything for, by the demon’s standards, a truly staggering length of time. Was he…. Carefully, not wanting to disturb the demon or his hair, Aziraphale bent forward and couldn’t suppress a smile at the slack openness of the sleeping demon’s face, the way the preternatural dark of his eyelashes curled over his cheeks.

Gently, Aziraphale leant forward and planted a kiss on Crowley’s forehead. The world failed to end, and Aziraphale continued braiding, over-under, a distinctly un-angelic sort of smile on his face.