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Any Way You Want It

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Limbo is an elevator that never reaches its destination. And Crowley is stuck in it.

Strictly speaking, he isn’t stuck. He can vanish himself from limbo whenever he wants. The last time he was here, stuck in this elevator, it had been an accident. He was pretty drunk at the time and had inadvertently taken the travelator to limbo instead of the downwards escalator to Hell. He was pissed enough not to question the fact that he wasn’t going in the right direction. Pissed enough, in fact, to subsequently stumble into limbo, no questions asked.

Now, though- this is no accident. He’s here for a reason, and, unfortunately, he can’t get out of this. So, in his mind, he’s stuck.

Music tinkles cheerfully, a song that sounds frustratingly like one that he recognises, but isn’t quite it- the kind of music that is so nondescript and derivative that its tune eludes memory. It’s some cheesy, romantic nonsense. The kind of thing that makes him wrinkle his nose. The kind of pathetic love ballad that gets right on his tits, because soft keyboards and crooning voices and wind chimes- that is not what love feels like.

Love feels so, so much shittier than that.

“How long does this elevator go on for?”

Crowley pockets his hands and leans against the wall, the handrail digging uncomfortably into his back. “Forever. Unless you’re going somewhere.”

Aziraphale doesn’t lean. He isn’t the type of person to lean against anything, whether or not he has an excuse to. Crowley measures the way the angel patiently stands in the centre of the elevator, back turned to him. Grey carpet and grey walls and grey music making him somehow seem all the brighter.

“Remind me of how you’re so familiar with limbo?” Aziraphale asks, peering up at the arrow shaped light pointing downwards and rocking on the balls of his feet.

“Remember that time you tried to make me see the Jersey Boys?”

“Yes- I still maintain you would have enjoyed-”

“I can- I can almost guarantee I wouldn’t’ve. Anyway, remember how, instead, we went to the pub and we both got riotously drunk-”

“And we had to call it a night because you were scandalising the locals.”

Scandalising- it’s Soho, no one in Soho’s ever scandalised. Anyway,” Crowley presses, noting the way Aziraphale quirks his eyebrows a little in disapproval, “I had to go to the office that night for some reason, and ended up accidentally taking the travelator instead of the escalator.”

“Ah, I see.”

“I only realised after, like, five minutes that I was in the wrong place.”

They fall into quiet, and the same non-existent song continues to play. Crowley sighs and rubs his temple.

“I do believe we’ll be late, at this rate,” Aziraphale announces, checking his watch.

“‘S fine.”

“It doesn’t give off the best impression.”

“Yeah, well, we’ve already cocked that up, can’t get much worse than it already has,” Crowley replies.

Referring, of course, to the fact that they’ve pretty much ruined their relationship with their respective colleagues back in Heaven and Hell. But then, even as Crowley says it, he doesn’t quite believe the words coming out of his mouth. He thinks things could be a Hell of a lot worse (as it were). The past few weeks after the deflating balloon that was armageddon have been some of the best in his long, long life. These few weeks, he’s had no responsibilities. No questions asked, no paperwork, no demonic quota to fill. Just a lot of time to be himself.

And be with Aziraphale.

Who, currently, makes an almost inaudible sigh.

“For fuck’s sake, angel, stop thinking about it. It’s limbo. The whole point is that it’s dull and time stretches on forever, the more you worry about it the longer it’ll take to get there.”

Aziraphale tilts his head slightly and turns to look at him again, brows pulled together in interest. “Oh? A sort of, ‘watched pot will never boil’ situation? You know, that’s quite smart. Although I’d argue this is a lot more like Hell than-”

The elevator makes a gentle ping.

“Ah!” Aziraphale says with a pleased little smile, and a small bounce for good measure. Crowley shakes his head to himself.

The doors slide open.

The room is just a tad too small. Not noticeably at first, but when the archangel Gabriel stands up from his seat at the large meeting table, the back of the chair knocks awkwardly into the hollow wall. It makes the hang in there! cat poster fall askew, safety pins clattering to the floor. Gabriel looks disapprovingly at the narrow gap between table and wall, looking as if he’d like to miracle the place into being a bit larger. Unfortunately, the architecture of limbo is immune to such things.

Crowley saunters into limbo, just as he saunters everywhere. Aziraphale clasps his hands in front of him, and throws Crowley a brief glance. We’re on our own side.

“Beelzebub is late. Obviously,” Gabriel drawls. Having stood up to greet them, the angel decides to balance this strangely polite gesture- considering the topic at hand- with a more threatening lean towards them. Hands splayed on the ring stained, plastic table.

“Very Alan Sugar,” Crowley mutters to himself.

Aziraphale’s mouth twitches- almost a smile. He narrows his eyes at him as if to say: now is not the time to make me laugh, foul demon.

“Sit down, the two of you.”

Gabriel nods to the various empty chairs at the long meeting table. Crowley takes the one closest to him, out of pure laziness and a strong desire to be on the opposite end of the room to number-one-wanker-Gabriel. He pulls out the chair and straddles it, resting his arms on the back. Aziraphale hesitates for a moment, trying to figure out where he should sit. Should he make his disobedience plain and sit right next to the demon that he’s spent the past six thousand years secretly hanging out with? Or kiss up to the man who has made his life as much of a Hell as is possible, coming from an angel? Crowley can see the debate in his pinched face.

Eventually, Aziraphale straightens out his waistcoat and clears his throat. “I think I’ll stay standing, thank you.”

Crowley raises his eyebrows and barely withholds a smirk. In Aziraphale’s world, that’s about as close to fuck you and your fucking seats as he’s willing to get.

Crowley wonders when he got so good at reading him.

Gabriel takes his seat again, straightening his suit. It’s all angels seem to be able to fucking do. “Now, let’s make this quick-”

The elevator door pings again, and there’s the familiar, skin-itching sound of flies buzzing.

“Alright,” Beelzebub mutters, wandering into the room with all the enthusiasm of a sloth. They peer down at Crowley, looking him up and down in the way teenage girls do at parties when someone’s arrived from a completely uncool clique. Then, drags out their own chair and slumps into it.

“You couldn’t have arrived on time,” Gabriel says stiffly.

Beelzebub stares blankly. “It’s limbo? That elevator’s meant to take forever? And I wanted to finish my book. I was on the last two pages.”

“Oh, well that’s alright then, isn’t it?”

Crowley sighs theatrically. The angel and the demon glare at him, as if irritated at having their argument interrupted.

“I know you didn’t bring us down here to listen to you bicker, so if you’re ready to stop wasting my time?” Crowley suggests, leaning his face against his hand.

Aziraphale stands stock still by Crowley’s side. Gabriel and Beelzebub share a glance that seems to be the facial version of a shrug. “Fine,” Gabriel starts. “I don’t intend to keep you long, because quite frankly, I’ve been dreading this all week.”

“Same,” Beelzebub chimes in.

“Yup,” Crowley adds.

Aziraphale casts his eyes around the room and measures his audience. “It’s not the highlight of my day,” he admits.

“The main gist of it is that we don’t want to babysit you anymore,” Gabriel continues. “We’re presenting you with two options.”

Crowley feels Aziraphale watching him for his reaction. Crowley gives none, other than waving his hand impatiently to move the conversation forward.

“Option one, the two of you keep on doing what you were meant to be doing in the first place,” Beelzebub says.

“It pains me to say it,” Gabriel supplies, “But the world needs to remain in balance until our next try at armageddon. It was God’s intention to have you both there in the garden, it was apparently God’s intention to have you cock up so enormously-”

Well,” Aziraphale tries to complain, but he’s silenced by Gabriel’s hand.

“-And we believe that for armageddon to come around again, there needs to be that… you know,” he gestures vaguely. “Yin and yang thing.”

Crowley thinks this is just a polite way of saying ‘killing you was too hard so we suppose you’ll have to stay one way or another’. But then Aziraphale says slowly, “You want us to... continue to perform miracles and effectively cancel each other out.”

“Worked the last time,” Beelzebub says.

“Debatable,” Crowley mutters.

Beelzebub stares evenly at him. “We’re just asking you to do your fucking jobs so the world doesn’t end prematurely.”

“Except, it was meant to end two weeks ago, wasn’t it, though?” Crowley taunts with a sneer.

“What’s option two?” Aziraphale dives in.

“Option two,” Gabriel begins wearily, rubbing his temples. “Well, option two is this. If you want to go rogue and ignore orders, then be our guests.”

“But there will be consequences,” Beelzebub says, elongating each word lazily.

Crowley watches the angel and the demon opposite him as he considers Beelzebub’s words. It’s strange to see them side by side. Strange to be in this grey room with cardboard walls and a resting temperature that’s just a smidgeon too warm, clock ticking just a bit too loudly. Strange to be so brazenly talking to them both with Aziraphale by his side- no more hiding.

However-

“Don’t tease us. What are the consequences,” he presses.

Beelzebub looks almost like they want to smile. “If you’re going to go native, then you’d better go all the way. Can’t have your cake and eat it.”

Crowley blinks. And then he sighs again, this time, in understanding.

“You want to remove our powers?” Aziraphale asks a little incredulously.

“We’re not letting an angel and a demon gallivant hand in hand with all the ammunition and none of the motivation to follow orders,” Gabriel says seriously. Sharp accent, sharp suit, everything about him sharp. “It’s as Beelzebub says. You can’t have your cake and eat it.”

Crowley clenches his teeth. He doesn’t like his tone. He supposes he should have seen all of this coming. Looking up at Aziraphale, the angel appears similarly frustrated.

“So, what,” Crowley shrugs. “That’s it? Either we keep doing the same old useless shit, or you make us, essentially, human?”

“Would that mean making us mortal?” Aziraphale asks.

“I don’t have the authority to remove your immortality,” Gabriel says a little resentfully. “But as an archangel, I do have power over you, Aziraphale, and I can take away your miracle abilities.”

“Same for you,” Beelzebub says, wrinkling their nose in Crowley’s direction. As if he smells worse than them, the arsehole covered in flies. “Consorting with angels. Disgusting.”

Crowley scoffs, gestures to Beelzebub and Gabriel. “Um! A bit rich?”

Beelzebub leans forward slowly, blank eyes fixed on Crowley. It would intimidate most, but very little intimidates this demon.

“Yeah. We both know it’s not the same, though. Don’t we, Crowley?”

He hates what they’re insinuating. It makes his stomach churn and his head hot, hot enough that he might spontaneously burn into flames. It’s been known to happen.

There’s a long stretch of silence, and Crowley refuses to lose the staring contest he’s got going. He’d rather look anywhere but Aziraphale’s direction right now. The clock ticks loudly and the room becomes that bit more suffocating.

“So, what’ll it be, boys?” Gabriel announces, clapping his hands decisively.

“What, we have to choose now?” Aziraphale asks, just a little scandalised, as he quite often sounds.

“Now or never,” Beelzebub says, still staring at Crowley.

There’s a minute shift in Aziraphale’s straight posture beside him. “I choose-” he begins, then hesitates.

The clock continues to tick, and Gabriel looks at his expensive Swiss watch pointedly. “Can you hurry this up? I have pilates in half an hour.”

“Oh, go on, then,” Crowley says, rolling his head lazily. “Human. Human! I choose to be human, fuck it. If it means getting you two off our backs.”

The moment he says it, he knows he’s made the right decision. Fucking terrifying, still. But he’d much rather be a human than a dog on Beelzebub’s leash. Humans are law breakers. Humans pretty fucking punk. Not too bad, becoming closer to something he sort of respects. Always had a soft spot for them.

“And me,” Aziraphale adds quickly.

Crowley shoots him a look. Are you sure? His frown conveys.

Absolutely, that small smile implies.

He doesn’t want to think about what the squirming in his chest implies.

Beelzebub and Gabriel look at each other.

The demon shrugs.

The angel rubs his hands together and stands up abruptly. “Good! Good, that’s a weight off my mind. Don’t go causing trouble, kids! Right, gotta dash, I left my pilates mat back home.”

“Wait, aren’t you-?” Crowley begins.

“Oh, sure,” Gabriel remembers, as he squeezes through the gap between the chairs and the wall towards the elevator. He snaps his fingers. “Consider it done, Aziraphale,” he adds, giving him not so much of a glance.

Ever since Crowley met him in Heaven, ever since he’d seen the way he treated Aziraphale-

Shut your stupid mouth and die, already.

-He’s not had much patience towards him. He’s about this close to going full snake and strangling the bastard.

Aziraphale, on the other hand, seems unfazed. Unchanged; he doesn’t look any different, nor especially human, compared to before. Nor does he look angry or upset. Just cool and collected. It has always baffled Crowley how the angel can be so easily flapped by a stain on his coat, and yet in the face of the archangel Gabriel treating him like shit, he can carry himself with such control and poise. Crowley never inherited that skill from God.

“You’re done too,” Beelzebub says to Crowley, as if they’re finishing up a doctor’s appointment. A doctor with no bedside manner. But then, Crowley’s used to people being rude to him, so he accepts it with a shrug. Sort of par for the course. “Now stop being a pain in my arse.”

Gabriel reaches the elevator first, pushing the button to close the doors before they can take the ride up with him. Aziraphale tuts.

Crowley reckons it’s better that way.

***

The French House is one of Crowley’s favourite watering holes in London. It’s one of the few that hasn’t been bought out by a pub chain and isn’t crawling with posh students. Just the right amount of grimy. Nestled on the edge of Soho, it’s also ideal in that nobody bats an eye at the two strangely contradictory men sitting side by side at the large open window. A summer breeze drifts in, mixed with car fumes and cigarette smoke of the LGBT+ Pride youth chattering outside.

Somewhere in here, there’s a photo of Crowley grinning with a table full of empty pint glasses. (He also wasn’t wearing his sunglasses. The caption of the photo is bloke with the weird contact lenses destroys 15 pints: 2nd August 2007) He’d won a drinking contest that night, cheating using his sobering up abilities. Aziraphale had, on the outside, strongly disapproved. But then, he had also been the one to quite happily take the photo.

“Can’t do that anymore,” Crowley says aloud to Aziraphale as they reminisce. “Smelly old humans now. Sort of. Immortal humans. Going to have to sober up like a fucking pleb.”

“You really mustn’t refer to humans as plebs,” Aziraphale says without much conviction, gazing out of the window at the passers by. “We’re part of their world, now. In a way, I suppose we always have been.”

“Yup. Seemed to make most sense to choose the human option over being Hell’s bitch.”

Aziraphale hums with agreement into his pint glass, eyes widening a little to emphasise this further.

“Suppose,” Crowley muses, “now, we can do whatever we want.”

Aziraphale makes a satisfied sigh and half of his pint has disappeared. “Suppose so. Thinking back on it, for a divine being, I never did have that much freedom.” He looks distantly out of the window again, sitting on the awkwardly tall, wobbly stool with perfect form. “I have the bookshop of course, and there was very little stopping me from enjoying life’s pleasures.”

Crowley raises his eyebrows and smirks.

The angle purses his lips. “Food. I obviously meant food, and books and autumn walks through Hampstead Heath. Mind out of the gutter, please.”

“I didn’t say anything-”

“But at the end of it all,” Aziraphale tries to press on, “I never had any freedom at all, truly. I always had destiny on my shoulders. The weight of armageddon, the cogs and wheels clicking into the place, the ineffable plan. Both of us.”

“Ah, it’s no different now, not really.”

“Do you think?” he asks lightly, eyebrows raised slightly. “I’m not so sure. We may still be immortal, but we’re closer to human than ever. I wonder if that means we have more of a choice. That was God’s gift to humans, after all.”

Crowley shakes his head, downs his pint. Aziraphale watches in mild interest. He slams down the glass on the window sill. “After all the shit we’ve had to orchestrate, I don’t think there’s such a thing as choice. That book you picked up from Book Girl was enough to convince me. Nah. We’re still on the path of destiny.”

Aziraphale exhales. Looks up at the ceiling of the pub. Through the various floors and to the sky above. “Strange destiny you have planned, then, old chap.”

Crowley moves to pick up his pint glass again, before realising it’s empty. “Oh. Third round?”

Aziraphale gives him a mischievous sideways glance and a restrained smile.

Sweetly angelic face. Light in his eyes.

Always a light in his eyes that Crowley’s found eternally fascinating.

Stop it, he tells himself.

“It would be rude not to,” he says with a satisfied little wiggle.

There’s only thing that Crowley finds works in these situations. These moments where he just wants to squish him, is overwhelmed by those hideously fluffy feelings- the type one might get (certainly not him) when watching kitten and puppy videos on YouTube. There’s only one thing that he’s found works, and it’s either punching a wall, or breaking a chair. Or, in this case, rolling his eyes behind his sunglasses and mocking him.

He returns with the two extra pints shortly, finding Aziraphale’s second glass now empty.

“Better slow down, I suppose,” the angel says ruefully.

Bollocks to slowing down.”

Crowley begins to down his pint in an act of defiance, and now Aziraphale’s the one to roll his eyes.

“Yes, very impressive,” he says condescendingly.

“What’s the point in holding back,” Crowley continues through a wince, feeling the bubbles going down the wrong way. “We can do what the fuck we want now.”

The two of them look out of the window. The pub opposite the road is busy with people gathering after work, leaning against the window sills outside and chattering about sales figures. The landlord drops a bin bag of bottles loudly onto the road, and a Just Eat moped whizzes around it, honking his horn.

“That’s just it!”

Crowley turns to see Aziraphale straightening further in his seat, a triumphant smile on his face.

“What is it,” he asks warily.

“Let’s do something, Crowley!”

Crowley blinks at him, wide eyes staring into his soul and beaming smile. White blonde hair catching the evening-

Stop. It, he reminds himself sternly. He’s glad he wears these sunglasses, just so that Aziraphale can’t see what he’s really thinking.

“Do something?” Crowley begins slowly. “Well, we could… go for dinner. We’ve done the Ritz, we could go to the Ivy. The chicken truffle sandwich is bloody cosmic-”

No, not the Ivy,” Aziraphale wrinkles his nose dismissively.

“Fuck, alright then, have it your way. We could do Dishoom instead. And I know you’re paranoid you’re going to get curry sauce on your suit, but if I can tempt the waiters to get us to the front of the queue and- ah, shit, can’t do that anymore-”

“No, listen, Crowley.”

The sudden earnest tone makes him pause. What makes his mind go disturbingly empty, except for screaming white noise, is the way Aziraphale leans forward and grabs his arm. The excitement is painfully palpable.

“Let’s go on holiday!”

Crowley raises his eyebrows. Then, “See, for a second, I thought you actually had something exciting to tell me.”

“A holiday, Crowley- an honest to God holiday! Think of it!”

“We’ve been everywhere in the world, and outside of it. And we’ve missed the best season for Alpha Centauri.”

“Ice cream, and fish and chips on the promenade,” the angel continues dreamily, clutching his chest and ignoring Crowley. He’s good at ignoring him when he wants to, the stubborn wanker. “Fruit de mer and a bottle of fizz on the porch-”

“You’re just listing food.”

“We can go anywhere, and no one will chase us! Nobody on our tails, no responsibilities, just going somewhere for the sake of going there!”

Aziraphale watches Crowley, waiting for him to choose his side, eyes wide and imploring. Trouble is, they’ve both figured out that Crowley will always, always choose his side. Even without the cherub eyes.

“Sounds like you have a particular place in mind,” Crowley acquiesces with a sigh, picking up his Guinness.

“Yes. The Isle of Skye. Garden of the Gods, as they call it!”

He licks the white foam from his top lip, and considers this. “I do like Scotland.”

“I know you do, that’s why I thought of it,” Aziraphale replies with a cheeky smile and a nudge.

“Alright, you’ve convinced me,” Crowley says, after very little convincing indeed. “Isle of Skye. We leave tomorrow, early.”

Aziraphale claps excitedly. “Oh goodie!”

Goodie,” Crowley mimics. “You sound like the Famous Fucking Five.”

“And there shall be lashings and lashings of ginger beer.”

“Talisker,” Crowley corrects. “If we’re going to Skye, we’re drinking whisky.”

The angel nods conspiratorially. He leans closer as he does so, and Crowley can smell the stupid cologne that his stupid barber recommended him mixed with the Camden Town pale ale he’s drinking.

“Oh yes,” the angel did ordain. “Let there also be whisky.”

***

Sometimes, he just gives up trying to change the music to anything other than Queen. Today is one of those days, as he listens to a The Best of Queen CD in his Bentley.

His dear old Bentley. It doesn’t feel quite the same, even if Adam had restored it to every little detail. The bullet holes in the driver’s window are still there. But she’s not the same.

Freddie Mercury belts out Bohemian Rhapsody and Crowley drums his fingers against the leather of the steering wheel. Soho is quieter than usual at seven AM on a Saturday morning, but it also has its fair share of party goers making their way home after a sleepless night out. There’s some excellent walks of shame, too, which Crowley has immense fun watching. It’s truly a spectator’s sport. He’d conjure a box of popcorn, if he could. And he’d have parked on the double yellow lines if he could’ve, but this time, he can’t tempt anyone into not giving him a parking fine. So he slips into a fortunate space outside of A Z Fell’s bookshop and waits, listening to Queen and watching the local drag queens make their way home in their excellent looking heels that he only wishes he could walk in.

Thunderbolt and lightning, very very frightening,” Crowley mutters tunelessly to himself, staring at the door of Aziraphale’s bookshop and home.

He’s vaguely aware of the fact that Aziraphale lives in the flat above the bookshop, but he’s never been before. For one reason or another, neither of them have ever visited each other’s home, always keeping their shared company to the safety of restaurants and bars and pubs and parks and the occasional Lidl when looking for discount Rioja. Privately, Crowley’s always wondered what the angel’s home is like. Either dusty and full of books and cluttered with collectibles, or pristine and clean. He can’t quite decide which suits him best.

The demon continues to drum his fingers impatiently. A startled fox jumps out in front of the car, and a Strongbow can rolls gently, almost ethereally down the pavement. God revealing herself in mysterious ways.

Crowley turns his attention to the door of the shop and grumbles.

Any way the wind blows...

And thus, Bohemian Rhapsody comes to an end. To offset the poignant, final notes of the song, Crowley winds down the window and hangs half of his torso outside, leaning on the horn with his left hand.

“OI! ANGEL! GET THE HELL OUT HERE, I’M NOT WAITING ALL DAY!”

It’s not difficult to imagine the flustered tutting that Aziraphale is making right now. Crowley is barely inside the car again before he hears a window being pushed open. Aziraphale leans out of it, searching for Crowley’s car and finding it quickly. His expression turns into an adorably irritated little frown.

Give me just a second!”

The angel huffs and disappears back inside the building, closing the window. Crowley snorts, peering fondly through the window. I Want To Break Free winds up, the shitty music system filling the car as best it can. He knew Aziraphale would be late, faffing about packing and probably preparing for any weather- despite the fact that the forecast predicts sunny skies all week. He’d known he would be late, and not just because he’s known him, on and off, for roughly six thousand years.

Because while Crowley can tempt the world to move around him, draw anyone in any direction he wants, similarly, he finds himself drawn towards one thing and one thing only. Whilst he can make the universe shift about him like magnets, like flows of currents, tempting people this way and that, there is only one person who has that same affect on him. He feels it, feels the gravitational pull deep in his gut. It’s what makes his hackles raise when Aziraphale is on the other side of the world, in danger. It’s what made him risk his skin and choose their own side, not Hell’s. It’s an instinct.

A feeling of love that makes him want to fall on his knees and serve like he’s an angel all over again.

But he’s not an angel. He’s a demon, and demons, surely, aren’t meant to have an Achilles’ heel like this, their power flipped on them like-

The bookshop doors open with a loud jingle, and Aziraphale pulls a suitcase down the steps.

“Oh fucking Hell,” Crowley mutters to himself. He winds down the window. “Angel, we’re going for five days, not a sodding-well year.”

Aziraphale gives him a pleading look, seemingly embarrassed of himself as he rolls the suitcase to round the back of the car and pops open the boot. “Yes, I know,” he calls, “You needn’t labour the point, it’s just that now we can’t perform miracles I-” there’s a pause, and the car jostles as the suitcase goes in besides Crowley’s weekend sized bag. “-I figured there’s no harm in backup plans. Although I maybe went a little overboard.”

Maybe, just a tad.”

The passenger door opens and Aziraphale gets in. Crowley knows to give him a second or two to sort himself out, smooth out his waist coat and get himself comfortable. The angel likes things to be just so, and it’s not worth arguing with him over how long that might take. Eventually, Aziraphale announces, “Right! And off we go!”

Crowley nods and starts the car, belts it through Soho, narrowly avoiding another fox.

“‘All creatures great and small’ means nothing to you,” Aziraphale says disapprovingly.

They roar down Regent’s Street, the roads nicely quiet at this time, save for the odd double decker bus and taxi. Crowley sticks the car into fourth and revs the engine for all it’s got. Until they leave London, Aziraphale isn’t going to relax- instead clinging onto the handle above the passenger door for dear life. He supposes it’s fair, particularly now that they have no miracle powers. Nonetheless, Crowley ignores the way he purses his lips and heads towards the M40.

Not the M25.

They talk about whatever nonsense they usually talk about, long enough that Crowley forgets what’s in his glove compartment. Or, perhaps, he’d ‘forgotten’- that is to say, intentionally put the thought aside. Until-

“I would say we should put some music on,” Aziraphale muses, looking out the window wistfully, “Except I know your car radio makes that rather difficult.”

“Uh, well,” Crowley begins, “funny you should say that, actually. I made a Spotify playlist, and I fucked around with the speaker system on my phone last week so we can play it out loud with proper volume. Tried and tested, doesn’t turn into Queen.”

“Spotify playlist?”

“It’s like a sort of, streaming platform where you can listen to music- doesn’t matter, it’s just got music, angel, don’t worry your pretty little head about it.” That was meant to sound sarcastic. He hopes it did. “Just- pop open the glove compartment, my phone’s in there.”

Aziraphale leans forward to open the compartment, replacing all the spare sunglasses that pour out. He plucks out the phone with a particular delicacy that tells Crowley that he doesn’t know how to work an iPhone.

“Point it in my direction.”

“Why-?”

“It’s got facial recognition.”

“Well, just tell me your password. I think I can type in a few silly numbers.”

“I’m not giving you my password,”

“Oh. No, I understand, that’s fair enough-”

“Just turn the phone towards me, alright?”

Aziraphale complies, a baffled frown on his face as Crowley demonstrates the wonders of technology. He turns his eyes away from the M40 bi-passing Oxford, looks at his phone, which apparently won’t recognise his face at this angle. He takes it from Aziraphale’s hand and looks at the screen-

Narrowly avoiding knocking a motorbike into the hard shoulder. The cyclist gives him the middle finger over his shoulder.

Aziraphale sits bolt upright in his seat. “Dear Lord- eyes on the road, Crowley!”

“Yeah, yeah, alright, keep your knickers on, he’s fine,” Crowley waves his phone dismissively at Aziraphale, who takes it gingerly. “Motorcyclists deserve to have the shit scared out of them, if they’re going to drive fucking death machines. I’ve done the world a favour giving him a scare.”

“Yes, well, anyway. Music. Right. Excellent. Wonderful. Now. How do I-?”

“It’s the green symbol at the bottom of the screen. Should be a playlist called road trip-”

“Oh yes, I see it!”

“Well done,” Crowley says rolling his eyes. Educating Aziraphale in technology always requires a fair bit of hand holding.

“Alright. So I just press it?”

“Ye- yes you press it, what the fuck else are you going to do, lick it?”

He doesn’t have to look at him to know that he’s getting Aziraphale’s ‘don’t be so rude’ face.

And soon enough, music begins to play. It’s not the best sound quality but it’s loud enough, at least, after the jiggery-pokery he gave his phone. And then he begins to feel weirdly self-conscious as Aziraphale hums along thoughtlessly, probably not knowing the song at all but having a nice enough voice to give it a go. Self-conscious because he’d put a lot of thought into this playlist, more than he’d admit to anyone without killing them afterwards. A fair few of these are songs that he has thought, for a long time, that Aziraphale might like. It’s therefore sort of. Personal.

And a little surreal, seeing the angel in his peripheral humming and flicking through his phone, listening to music that Crowley had only ever imagined Aziraphale might listen to.

“This is nice,” he comments, not quite surprised but something close to it.

“Yeah, thought Journey would be up your street. Good old cheesy shit.”

Aziraphale beams at him. Crowley smiles back. They both look out at the increasingly busy M40. It’s always a fucking nightmare near Birmingham. This time, it’s not his fault though. He has no idea who was responsible for Birmingham.

“Isn’t this marvellous.”

Crowley raises his eyebrows at Aziraphale, one hand on the wheel. “What. Sitting in traffic on a Saturday morning outside Birmingham? Yeah, very- OI! GET THE FUCK OUT OF THE FAST LANE YOU FUCKING MORON-” he directs this sudden tirade at a lorry which begins to indicate in front of him and leans on his horn. “Yes, this is just marvellous,” he says in a mockingly sweet voice.

“It’s nice to just get out, though,” Aziraphale presses on with a wilful smile. “Really escape. I can’t quite get my head around the fact that we don’t have to report to Heaven or Hell anymore. At least, not in the way we used to, anyway.”

“And we lost our powers. As the cherry on top,” Crowley adds helpfully with a plosive ‘p’ at the end.

“I don’t have to try and save the world daily, you don’t have to cause trouble, only to cancel each other out. It feels strange.” He pauses briefly, then begins shuffling in his seat in a way that implies that he’s about to pose a question and is thinking of how to ask it. Crowley sighs and braces himself. “Does it feel strange for you? Knowing that you don’t have to fit in a little demonic box anymore?”

Crowley thinks about this, pokes his feelings on the topic and is surprised by what he finds. “Not really. I was never very good at being evil anyway. Never that interested in the blood and gore, more into the low-key, subtle kind of evil doings. The Luton Airport kind of evil doings.”

“Oof. Yes, and that really is bad enough.”

That makes him smile to himself, wiggling his head a little smugly- a gesture he thinks he’s absorbed from Aziraphale. He can’t help it, he’s very proud of Luton Airport. None of the other demons had come up with anything quite so annoying as an airport with terrible connections, terrible airlines and flight times that exclusively require getting up at 3 in the morning.

“What about you,” he asks eventually. “How you getting on. You know, sans powers?”

Aziraphale sighs. “Oh, you know. I suppose we’ll just have to get used to it. I did always try not to use my powers, as a habit, anyway. So as not to abuse them, etcetera,” he explains seriously.

“Of course,” Crowley replies- fake seriously. He’s used his powers every day for six thousand years, from washing dishes to hopping astral planes.

“But for now- yes, it’s strange. I sort of keep forgetting.”

They fall into a rare contemplative silence, and the car rumbles around them. The traffic picks up again and the white lines of the road begin to streak by more quickly. In roughly nine hours’ time, they’ll be in the Isle of Skye, in an airbnb that he’d booked the night before last minute, in the middle of buggering nowhere with only sheep as their company. It’s not usually his thing, but after these past few weeks, he’s looking forward to some quiet. Some quiet with Aziraphale.

And his daydream is interrupted by a song coming on- a song that he knows Aziraphale likes, because it’s one of only a handful of songs from the 80s of which he ever bothered learning the name.

Aziraphale gasps and turns to him with a ridiculous ‘o’ shaped mouth and raised eyebrows. Wide, bright blue-green eyes. “You remembered!”

“Of course I remembered, it’s hard to forget.”

“You know, I know almost all the lyrics!”

Crowley smiles, nudges Aziraphale. “Go on then. Prove it.”

He challenges him, not so much just to tease and poke, but because he also just happens to love seeing Aziraphale so relaxed and happy. Singing tunefully- as any angel does- to Electric Light Orchestra. Shuffling in his seat, not quite dancing. Turning to Crowley eagerly when he sings the particularly silly parts, wide eyes expectant like he wants Crowley tease him, wants him to beg him to stop. And the song changes to another of Aziraphale’s favourites, some different type of cheesy bollocks- a song that requires backing vocals and lead vocals, both of which Aziraphale attempts to sing simultaneously, rather comically. Crowley duly shows his second hand embarrassment. Eventually, Aziraphale gives up and tries to get Crowley to sing the backing vocals with him. And Crowley of course acquiesces, grating his way through the lyrics, belting a ridiculous duet at the top of his lungs with great enthusiasm and flare. Wild gesticulations making the car swerve this way and that as Aziraphale complains that he’ll get them both discorporated.

They make their first pit stop at a motorway service station outside Lancaster, Aziraphale announcing that it’s far more civilised than the last one they passed because it has a Marks & Spencer’s. Aziraphale buys them lunch. Then a slice of cake for himself. Then he buys Crowley a strong black coffee without asking what he wants.

And Crowley watches him delicately eat a slice of Marks & Spencer’s lemon drizzle, lorry drivers and screaming children and McDonalds queues snaking around them, thinking that there could be no better way of spending his time than this.

Chapter Text

Nothing sets Aziraphale’s heart soaring like an escape to the country.

As soon as they pass Glasgow, the drive goes by wonderfully smoothly, without traffic. The roads are largely empty, and Crowley overtakes each occasional car with great zeal and a smile that makes Aziraphale’s heart stumble uncomfortably. He ignores these responses to his best friend’s presence as well as he can, which is actually rather well considering that he’s very practised in this particular area.

It’s all getting harder to ignore, these days.

Aziraphale listens to Crowley’s playlist- songs that he gets the feeling were chosen quite specifically for this road trip- and watches the Scottish Highlands move past his window. Great imposing mountains, stretching moors, ragged grey rocks jutting out into the landscape and the occasional sheep wandering out into the road. He wonders how it must have been- before all of this had created. Imagines the dawn of these mountains, pushed out from beneath the earth by God’s own hand, by forces of nature and a power greater than any he ever had. He thinks on the beauty, the majesty involved in carving this ancient place into the Earth. Unfortunately, he’s been informed that the Palaeozoic era had actually been a pretty dull time to be around.

And the winding roads seem to stretch on forever, bending around mountain after mountain, until they reach the coastline and the Skye bridge, the sun beating down on the empty roads and the roar of the Bentley’s engine sending birds flying in alarm. Sparkling lochs, blue water dancing in the sun. This drive is wonderful enough to count as a holiday, in Aziraphale’s book; they aren’t running from, or towards anything. Simply going somewhere together.

Remarkable, considering how long they’ve known each other, how little of that time- comparatively- they’ve spent together. He supposes it’s about time they take a trip.

Although, he’d been rather bold to suggest it, he thinks. When the thought came to mind, Aziraphale almost stopped himself from saying it. A holiday together seemed rather- intimate. A big step upwards from only seeing each other now and then when they had the time. But then, the almost-apocalypse had rather changed things. For the world, and for them.

Now, here they are, driving through Skye. Crowley swearing loudly as the gravelled country roads sends tiny splints of rock against the paintwork of his car. And so it takes a little longer to reach their accommodation than predicted whilst Crowley drives at a glacial pace down the B886, avoiding damaging his beloved Bentley without the option of miracling it better. The evening sun comes down low, making him wince, and Crowley offers one of the many pairs of sunglasses in his glove compartment. Aziraphale accepts a pair gladly, smiling a little bashfully to himself.

The sea appears into view, and it momentarily takes Aziraphale back. It’s so pure and unpolluted here, such as he hasn’t seen in hundreds of years. He’s seen the sea plenty of times, of course, it shouldn’t be anything special at this point. In fact, there was a time when Crowley had a yacht on the Amalfi coast, and the two of them would regularly sit and drink Aperol spritzes on the water- until duty next called, and they had to part once more. But now, he watches the sea emerge, lush green islands poking out of the clear blue water and stony beaches down below- and he feels an anticipatory smile grow on his lips. With no one to disturb them, this time, he wonders what will be in store.

He removes the sunglasses and winces in the evening light. “Just look at that.”

Crowley takes his eyes off the road for a moment to look. His patience is wearing thin after having to tuck into corners several times to let people pass on the narrow road. He’d tried, at first, to tempt them into giving him right of way, before realising that he couldn’t, being powerless. He sighs and waves a concessive hand. “Yes, you’re right, it’s divine. Absurdly beautiful. Well chosen, angel.”

“Thank you,” he replies, feeling pleased with himself. “I thought you’d appreciate the remoteness. I know you’re the city type, but-”

“Had enough with people for a while,” Crowley finishes with a nod and a wrinkled nose.

“And this is just the right place.”

They have trouble finding the accommodation. They pass it twice before realising that it doesn’t have a number on the gate- eventually they make a good guess and find it through process of elimination. Crowley’s Bentley isn’t made for these sorts of journeys, and the engine complains as he revs it up the steep little drive outside an old, whitewashed cottage. A pretty little thing with plant pots and a thatched roof, rolling fields sheltering it from the coastal wind. This place has seen centuries of families, years and years of love.

Terribly romantic, Aziraphale thinks to himself before he can help it, though he finds himself smiling. I don’t suppose Crowley realised.

Crowley wordlessly finds a safety deposit box and opens it to find the front door key- presumably having learned its security code from the ‘AirBnB’ host (Crowley had explained what the AirBnB app was in the car, and Aziraphale had only managed to absorb some of what he was saying).

He holds the key between his thumb and forefinger and waggles his eyebrows at Aziraphale. “Would you like to do the honours, sir?”

Something close to divine, undiluted, perfect adoration washes over Aziraphale. It probably shows on his face. He’s rather good at looking dazed, though he tries not to. “I’d be delighted to.”

The lock is a bit tricky, but after some fumbling- Crowley sighing impatiently behind him- the door opens.

Aziraphale gasps.

They step inside from the mild summer weather and into a flagstone floored kitchen-cum-living room. The kitchen is quaintly cluttered with mismatching mugs, the paint on the countertops faded and well used. There’s an aga, though the weather’s probably too warm to turn it on. But the wonderfully old-fashioned, homely kitchen isn’t what takes his breath away, nor is the cosy armchair, sofa, and original stone fireplace in the living room; no, it’s the walls of bookshelves. Rows and rows of books, many of which he probably hasn’t read yet, judging by a first glance at their spines. A small, literary heaven. Not at all Crowley’s style; which makes him wonder why on earth he should pick such a place.

Aziraphale steps further inside, traces his fingers along the bookshelves, lets his eyes wander lovingly over the premises.

Lets them fall on Crowley, who is watching him, leaning lazily against the doorframe. The demon rubs the back of his neck.

“So. What do you think?”

“Crowley, this is everything I could have hoped for,” he says a little breathlessly. Suddenly aware of how he sounds, he clears his throat and adds, “Thank you. For picking it out. So last minute, that is.”

Crowley winces, rolls his head from shoulder to shoulder and shrugs, kicking the door closed behind him. “Don’t- don’t do that,” he complains as he shakes his head. “Don’t thank me, don’t say nice things.”

“Well, if you are going to do nice things,” Aziraphale retorts.

Crowley tuts and saunters out of the room to explore. Aziraphale smiles to himself and continues to peruse the books. Some William Boyd, which isn’t so bad. Some Ian McEwan, he could really do without. Ah, some good, classic science-fiction- not a genre he’s indulged in much, but he’s willing to. Some well read period-romance novels with bent spines, which Aziraphale eyes curiously and-

“Oh bugger that for a bunch of buggering bananas!”

A door slams, loudly. Aziraphale’s come to expect such things from Crowley, so he doesn’t jump, but he does turn to see him stalk furiously back into the living room and collapse onto the sofa.

“What ever’s the matter?” he asks.

Crowley growls through gritted teeth, rips off his glasses and hurls them in the direction of the room he’s just left. Aziraphale mildly watches them clatter to the floor. “That’s what’s the matter, angel.”

Aziraphale gives him a look that says really, now, and goes to pick up the sunglasses. Standing up, however, looking through the opened door, he sees what the problem is.

“Ah,” he says aloud, heart in his throat as he spots the double bed. One bed.

Not two.

Yes, just the one bed.

“Ah,” he says again, because he’s not sure what else to say.

There’s a miserable groaning sound over his shoulder- he turns back to find Crowley lying on the sofa pressing a cushion to his face.

“What are you doing?”

“Suffocating myself so I can die.”

“It’s really not so bad,” he tries.

“Yes it is.”

“Oh- what do you want me to say?” he demands a little desperately.

At that, Crowley yells into the cushion. Then, apparently satisfied, with a heaving breath, peels it away from his face. He lies there like a dying man in a renaissance painting, draped delicately across the sofa in leather trousers and low cut shirt. With gold eyes staring sadly at the ceiling, he says with some resignation, “I’ll just sleep on the sofa.”

Aziraphale straightens. “You will do no such thing!”

Crowley rolls his eyes and groans again. And it’s not that he isn’t terrified by the idea of sharing a bed with Crowley, because he absolutely is. Nonsensical, he knows, but it’s an awful lot for him to take in. The idea makes his cheeks warm and his heart flutter- who knows how awkward he’ll feel when they’re actually lying there, side by side. It’s going to be terrible. But what’s worse than that is the idea of Crowley torturing himself over this, putting himself down and giving up. He hates seeing him in this sort of state, and he sees it as his duty to cheer him up. Pick him up.

And so he sighs, crossing the room to the sofa and perching on the edge. Crowley stares at him wanly.

“Alright. You can take the sofa if you really want,” Crowley grimaces.

“No. Neither of us are sleeping on the sofa.” He doesn’t miss the way Crowley’s brows pull together, a little pout on his lips. Are you sure?, that expression asks. “It’s not the end of the world,” Aziraphale adds.

Crowley snorts.

“Besides,” he says, wincing through a comforting smile, unconvinced by his words before he even manages to say them aloud. “What’s a little sharing of beds between two friends?”

They look at each other, and neither one has an answer. Eventually Crowley huffs, throwing the cushion in his hand at him.

“You’re such a child,” Aziraphale complains.

You’re a child,” Crowley retorts nonsensically.

Just then, before he can argue, Aziraphale’s stomach rumbles- loudly. He looks down at his waistcoat buttons and hums thoughtfully.

“I know just the thing,” he announces.

He smiles and stands up, taking Crowley’s hand and dragging him off the sofa. The demon makes himself limp and heavy, stubbornly staying put. It means that Aziraphale essentially ends up pulling him onto the floor, where he sits like a rag doll. Or, like dog who doesn’t want to walk any further, owner pulling uselessly on the leash.

Aziraphale tuts. “I was going to suggest we go to the pub.”

Crowley peers up at him, snake eyes narrowing. “Whisky.”

“Yes, precisely.”

Crowley considers this for all of two seconds, before climbing onto his feet. Auburn hair falling messily into his face, which he pushes back with a dismissive sniff. “Yes. Yes, pub, alright. Fine. That’ll cheer me up.”

“I thought it might,” Aziraphale says, dusting his friend’s shoulders off. “Come on, now. Let’s eat and get sloshed.”

***

It just so turns out that Crowley has booked a cottage just up the hill from the Isle of Skye’s oldest pub. After a stroll through the neighbouring fields, they reach a pebbled alcove with fishermen’s boats roped to the dock and crab cages sitting along the walls. The sea laps against the rocks quietly. The sun sets on the sparkling water. And it feels like this part of the world is safe from anything, God’s heavenly hands sheltering them in the form of grassy cliffs and marshlands. Gulls cry overhead, and Aziraphale’s heart sings with them.

The pub, meanwhile, is small and warm and noisy. Not as noisy as anywhere in London, of course, but it contrasts with the outside world’s tranquility quite starkly. They have to wait for a table for fifteen minutes, during which time they sit on a window sill and drink a pint, staring at the sea. And by the time they reach their table, it’s nine thirty in the evening, and the kitchens have little left other than the catch of the day and chips, which turns out to be just what they needed anyway. Two pints later, they’re onto the whisky- some of the best quality stuff he’s ever had, burning his throat pleasantly, a fire in his stomach that matches the feeling in his chest.

And Crowley perks up considerably, his drunken smile growing and brows raised happily over his sunglasses. An arm draped over the chair and his back against the wall. Pouting lips and hair swept back. Black shirt buttoned low to show his clavicle. Aziraphale knows he stares at Crowley often, and every time he does, he knows he shouldn’t, but he does anyway. The problem is, it’s almost impossible not to gaze- especially now, as he walks over to the bar in that way that he does, hips slinky and shoulders pushed back confidently. The other problem is that Crowley knows just how attractive he is, and that somehow only makes things harder.

It’s a wonder that Crowley hasn’t told him to stop staring, because he’s surely noticed by now that he’s painfully in love with him.

Eventually, Crowley returns from the bar with two more whiskies, slamming them against the table, and Aziraphale is abruptly snapped out of his daydreaming.

“Thing is,” Crowley begins decisively, slumping into his chair.

Their legs knock together, and Aziraphale doesn’t pull away. It feels too nice to be this close.

“Ducks?” he suggests, sorting through his internal archive of Crowley-tirades.

“Thing is-” the demon shakes his head.

“Global warming?”

“No, no. Thing is-”

“The homoerotic subtext between Achilles and Patroclus?”

“Thing is, racoons have hands. Have you noticed this? They have hands, not paws, and it’s very troubling.”

Aziraphale leans back in his seat, stretching out his legs so his feet are underneath Crowley’s chair. They’re sat beside the unlit fireplace, cradling whisky tumblers and talking nonsense. It’s just as Aziraphale hoped it would be. “Yes. Has it only just-” he hiccups. “-occurred to you?”

“Why would God give a stripy rat hands? I mean why does it need them?”

“Just wait till they gain opposable thumbs.”

“No! NO- but that’s just the thing!” Crowley leans forward with enthusiasm and almost falls off the chair. Aziraphale giggles stupidly, and the demon presses on. “They don’t need them, they can already build tools! Open jars, lock doors, solve life’s sodding mysteries, it’s terrifying-”

“You sound threatened,” Aziraphale implies.

“If- if, look, if you’re not threatened by giant rats with hands then I don’t know what to say,” Crowley concludes, holding his hands up like he can’t do any more to enlighten Aziraphale. “This world is absolutely terrifying sometimes.”

“Rather wonderful, too.”

The demon nods emphatically, a little off balance. He waves his hand with unnecessary flare. “Obviously. Obviously, we risked our skins for it- look, sorry, you’ve said it now and I can’t stop thinking about it. You mentioned Achilles and Patroclus and I’m riled up again. Homer really was an arse, did you ever meet him? Total wanker, I’m telling you.”

“Some say he was the cornerstone of Western literature,” Aziraphale slurs, looking blearily into his whisky glass.

“Well fuck his cornerstone. His cornerstone can stick a cactus up its arse.”

Really.”

“I asked him- I asked him, angel, I said, listen, why don’t you add me into the story? Just one bloke called Crowley, a little background character, a footnote, that’s all I asked, and he promised he would. He promised.”

Aziraphale smiles affectionately as Crowley petulantly reminisces, some folk song playing in the background of the pub. He loves it when Crowley falls upon these moods. “Perhaps he wasn’t fond of the name Crowley.”

The demon pouts. “‘S why I picked up Anthony.”

“I know, I know,” he says gently. “Well, if it’s any consolation, I like both names very much.”

Crowley stares at the floor and frowns. When he tries to rest his chin on his hand, his elbow slips off his knee and he slumps forward suddenly. Aziraphale feels another bubble of laughter pop out, and Crowley glares.

When they get kicked out at midnight, the landlord gruffly telling them that they can come back tomorrow, they stumble into the almost-dark of Scottish summer nights. The sky is still blue, though dark. The sea is still shining, albeit with moonlight. And Aziraphale’s senses are overcome with salt air, with the sound of the sea’s sussurating, and Crowley’s shoulder bumping into his.

And when Crowley links arms with him, spinning him around and belting out whatever folk song that had been playing in the pub, Aziraphale doesn’t find it in himself to complain. He lets himself be hurled about on the grass, dancing a messy ceilidh and losing his balance, almost falling flat on his face. They continue along the beach together, neither one of them quite ready for the night to be over yet. The rocks are uneven and incredibly difficult to walk on drunk, but they somehow manage without slipping.

At one point, Crowley stops abruptly and stares out at the cove, pushing his sunglasses up onto his forehead. His face is bathed in light, making his golden eyes looking more silver. Aziraphale stares at him, mouth most likely hanging open. And then a sudden, drunken determination takes over Crowley’s relatively relaxed expression, and Aziraphale watches him climb up onto a rock that juts out into the ocean.

Demon what are you doing, you’re going to get yourself killed-”

His arms are spread wide, his silhouette lit up with moonlight, copper hair catching its shine like the cliff edges. It’s quite a sight.

And then Crowley starts singing. Or rather, shouting out lyrics tunelessly into the silent night.

I WANT TO BREAK FREE! I’VE GOT TO BREAK FREE-

Crowley!” Aziraphale hisses, looking around him to see if anybody’s about. They’re not, of course they’re not.

Crowley stumbles a little, waving his arms comically like a cartoon character running mid-air. Then he seems to regain balance, and continues screaming the lyrics of what Aziraphale thinks is Queen’s I Want To Break Free with all his might.

“-SELF SATISFIED, I DON’T NEED YOUUUU-WAAH-

“Shhhhh!” Aziraphale hushes him, finger against his lips, but he’s laughing at the same time. “Crowley-!”

“Now everybodaaay!” Crowley announces, calling out to a non-existent crowd. “GOD KNOWS- GOD KNOWS I’VE GOT TO- Aziraphale! Come on!”

“No!” He cries, checking again anxiously to see if they’re pissing anyone off. He can feel the smile on his face, just as Crowley’s smirking back at him.

He continues to sing as he clambers down the rock. Aziraphale attempts to give him a hand, and only just manages through the fits of giggles. Crowley links arms with him again, and quite miraculously, Aziraphale finds himself belting out Queen along with him.

Two fools stumbling along a beach, shouting into the empty night- for no reason other than they can.

The walk back up to the cottage is steep. The fields are hilly and the sheep make unexpected obstacles. Aziraphale falls face first halfway up the hill, and Crowley has to sit down to compose himself. After the amount they’ve drunk, what should have been a five minute climb becomes a twenty minute fiasco, and when they finally reach the cottage, they both make a b-line for the bedroom.

Aziraphale collapses onto his back and attempts to sober up. He remembers after a long moment of confusion, scrunching up his face trying to summon a miracle, that he can’t do anything about the ceiling spinning above him. And the exhaustion of even trying makes him fall asleep, fully clothed.

He doesn’t feel Crowley take off his shoes and throw a blanket over him.

***

He doesn’t know what time it is when he wakes up, but he knows he feels absolutely terrible. That part is difficult to ignore.

His hand comes to his face and rubs it groggily. Sunshine pours through the window, curtains unclosed, and Aziraphale winces in the light as he sits up a little, making his stomach churn. He’s in bed. Yes- he remembers stumbling in at some point last night and collapsing. He looks down at himself- a blanket tangled up at the foot of the bed. Still in yesterday’s clothes. Shameful.

It seems like the best option to lie back down again. His body falling heavily against the sheets. And he realises, suddenly, that Crowley isn’t there beside him.

Crowley has been known to sleep on the ceiling when he’s frustrated and can’t drop off- he only knows this because Crowley has told him so, but the mental image has stuck with him. As Aziraphale stares at the (blissfully non-spinning) ceiling now, he’s almost disappointed not to see him there, sprawled out and fast asleep. Then again, he supposes he can’t magic himself up there anymore, without powers.

He gathers enough energy to sit up again, his stomach complaining less this time, and swings his legs out of bed. The head rush catches up with him and he presses his palm to his forehead.

“Oof,” he breathes to himself.

Shuffling socked feet across the wooden floor, he opens the door to the living room and finds Crowley in the kitchen, awake and seemingly more alive than him.

And he’s wearing an apron.

No, surely not, Aziraphale thinks.

“Before you say anything,” Crowley calls to him, back turned and pointing a finger blindly in his direction as he fills the kettle with his other hand, “I didn’t want to get pancake batter on my expensive shirt.”

Aziraphale hovers in the doorway of the bedroom, measuring the bizarre sight in front of him. A bright summer sunshine pouring through the windows, dust particles dancing; Crowley putting on the kettle and heating up a frying pan, pancake batter ready on the counter; an apron bow tied at his back.

“How awfully domestic of you,” Aziraphale says, and he’s disappointed by how loving his voice sounds when he says it. He wishes he could be just a little cooler, more sarcastic.

Shut up,” Crowley snarls, back still turned to him as he spoons butter into the pan. It sizzles deliciously and Aziraphale finds his feet moving towards the smell. “I’m not domestic, I’m hungry.”

“Right you are,” Aziraphale concedes, though he feels himself smiling fondly.

He wonders if Crowley remembers how much he likes crepes, or if it was just a coincidence.

Aziraphale wordlessly moves Crowley to the side and takes the handle of the pan. Crowley pours in crepe batter, and he has a jolly good go at flipping them over, failing miserably. Aziraphale is no better at it. In the end, they just use a spatula to turn them over, mangling the crepes so they resemble scrambled eggs. They still taste good, that’s what counts- Aziraphale announces this as he eats the first one before the rest are finished cooking. Crowley doesn’t believe him at first, but eventually admits that they are rather good as they settle down at the kitchen table with a cup of tea each.

Sitting opposite beside other at the breakfast table eating homemade crepes- that they made together, no less- is surreal. Wonderful, unmistakable, but surreal.

“How’re you feeling,” Aziraphale asks. “I felt rotten this morning, though this has helped enormously.”

Crowley nods, speaks with his mouth full (though Aziraphale has told him plenty of times it’s a terrible habit). “Fine. Slept it off. Crowley: one. Hangover: zero.”

“Lucky you.”

“Did you get much sleep?”

Aziraphale peers over at him over the rim of his mug with narrowed eyes, the steam warming his face pleasantly. “I did,” he says emphatically.

Crowley looks at him. Yellow eyes fixed on him and his irritation palpable. “What?” he drawls, fork hanging lazily between his finger and thumb.

“You slept on the sofa last night, didn’t you.”

Crowley blinks, sits up awkwardly and makes troughs of sugar on his plate with his fork. “You snore,” he says.

Embarrassment isn’t something he experiences a lot- it’s not really in an angel’s nature to be self-conscious. Modest, yes. Self-aware, of course. Embarrassed, no. Now, for some reason, Aziraphale feels his cheeks grow warm.

“Well, I am sorry,” he mutters defensively.

“No, don’t-” Crowley rolls his eyes so aggressively it looks painful. “Don’t do that voice, it doesn’t matter. I was just- anyway, did you manage to get any sleep?”

“Yes,” he says a little ruefully.

“Right, and I slept fine too, so there we are.”

There’s an awkward pause, and Aziraphale stares into his mug of tea.

He doesn’t know what he thought might have happened. It’s not as if the two of them sharing a bed would actually lead to anything. He’s not even sure if he’d want it to. He hasn’t been ready to tell Crowley how he feels over the past, roughly speaking, sixty years- that is, since he first realised those feelings. This holiday isn’t going to change his inability to take things at a faster pace. No, his pace is glacial, and a double bed in Skye isn’t going to alter that. That would be a miracle.

And yet he still finds himself disappointed that Crowley didn’t stay. That he hadn’t been there when Aziraphale woke up this morning.

“Well,” he tries, tries to put on his optimistic hat, “It’s a beautiful day. Do you know what the weather forecast is?”

“Said sunny skies, temperature…” Crowley digs out his phone from his intensely tight trouser pocket, and peers at the screen. His brows raise. “Twenty four degrees.”

“Positively balmy.”

And he looks at Crowley. Looks at the demon who has done so much for him over these past few thousand years, from saving his life to indulging in his whimsical notions of holidays to Scotland. Saving books from bomb sites. The same man who had gone to sleep on the sofa instead of waking Aziraphale up and telling him to shut up with his snoring. Who is here, in a cottage with him, quite out of his comfort zone. Enduring him.

It’s always been a wonder to Aziraphale how thoughtful Crowley can be- he considers this as he watches the demon flick through his phone thoughtlessly. It doesn’t go unnoticed how much trouble he goes to for Aziraphale. And, more than that, how little he seems to value his own happiness, skulking around telling himself he’s not nice and rejecting compliments.

Worse still, how much he puts himself in danger. Though, hopefully, those days are past.

He therefore feels it’s important that he elucidate Crowley to the fact that he’s worth far more than he realises. Even if that means irritating him into realising it.

“I have an idea,” he announces cheerily, “though you may hate it.”

“Good start,” Crowley mumbles, still staring at his phone.

“Let’s go to the beach.

Crowley sighs slowly, puts his phone down. Looks at Aziraphale contemplatively, as if waiting for him to expand.

He does. “We can make a little picnic. Go find a quiet spot and just read. Or, I suppose, in your case, nap.”

“Sounds awfully pleasant.” Crowley usually says such things with a wrinkled nose, and Aziraphale notices that this time, he doesn’t.

“Yes, well,” he starts, then the defensive, nervous little voice in his head tells him to stop being moronic, stop talking entirely, finish the sentence there. After a short moment of conflict, he adds quietly, “You deserve pleasant things.”

The expression on Crowley’s face is nothing short of shocked. It only lasts for a moment, before he frowns and puts on his sunglasses. “Alright, have it your way, beach it is. Better get a move on.”

The demon sweeps out of his chair with as much flare and drama as Aziraphale is accustomed to from him, and violently takes the empty plate from in front of him as he tidies up. As if he has somehow mortally offended him by suggesting he should be able to enjoy things. Only a couple of weeks ago, Aziraphale had quite explicitly said that Crowley could be nice, and he hadn’t been snarky about it- for once. Now, it’s almost like they’ve gone back a step. Maybe he has pushed it too far, this time.

When he gets up to help with clearing up breakfast, Crowley wordlessly waves a dismissive hand at him. Ordinarily, he’d argue with him. But now, that thing between them feels a little more fragile.

The doorbell rings, and Aziraphale is relieved to escape whatever mood Crowley is in- even if it means opening the door to a stranger in last night’s crumpled clothes and his hair a total mess.

He opens the door, and is immediately greeted by a golden retriever.

“Oh!” he gasps.

Aziraphale pays very little attention to the human in front of him, a weathered looking old man, and is instead rather enamoured by the dog. He bends down to take the dog’s fluffy face in his hands and ruffles her ears, making cooing sounds and kissy noises.

“Morning,” says the dog’s owner, “Mrs McLaughlan usually has milk delivered every other day, told me to come by when there were guests too.”

“Wonderful,” Aziraphale says distantly as he continues to make faces at the dog, adding silly noises for good measure. The dog pants in his face, and her breath smells awful but she clearly loves him, judging by her wagging tail and kisses. And he loves her so much, too. Aziraphale isn’t really meant to have a favourite animal, per se- being an all loving angel, etcetera. But he does rather love dogs.

“She’s called Allie.”

Allie!” he mimics with absolute adoration. The dog tries to give him one more kiss, and he ducks away. That’s quite enough dog slobber for one morning. He stands up straight, brushes the hair off his waist coat and beams a great smile at the milkman. “Sorry, terribly rude of me, greeting your dog before you.”

“I’m used to it,” he shrugs, handing two bottles of milk. “Shall I assume yous want these?”

“Please.”

“Nearest supermarket’s forty five minutes by car, so best to take what you can get.”

“Oh my. Thank you for the warning.”

With that, the milkman turns and heads back to the van parked on the small country road, Allie trotting after him with a swishing tail. Feeling thoroughly enlivened by this delightful encounter, he closes the door behind him and holds the two milk bottles triumphantly in hand.

Crowley nods. “That’s good. The bottle in the fridge ran out after pancakes. Oh,” he adds, drying the frying pan, “speaking of which, they’ve left a bottle of prosecco in there, too. Could I tempt you to some fizz on the beach?”

“Oh lovely,” Aziraphale replies enthusiastically.

And so- after Aziraphale has made himself more presentable for the day, whilst Crowley watches Jeremy Kyle on telly- they head out in the Bentley and drive West, towards some of the island’s nicer beaches. It’s already warm and Aziraphale finds himself pleasantly surprised by the lack of need for a coat. He is wearing only a jacket with his shirt, sans waistcoat, which is positively underdressed for him. Crowley meanwhile capitalises on the warm weather by finding his most obscenely low cut t-shirt and skinny jeans with confusingly intentional rips.

They roll down their windows as they drive, a light breeze filling the car with the sound of rushing air. Aziraphale and Crowley talk as they often do, about nonsensical things and with a hint of competition. But the towering mountains and wild moors distract them both a little, enough that there are periods of silence between them. The sky is an endless blue and Aziraphale almost wishes they would never reach the beach, just so he might stay in Crowley’s car with him and stare dreamily at the surroundings.

Eventually, however, they reach an empty car park. The ‘sat-nav’ on Crowley’s phone worked, which surprises him greatly (“I’d sort of hoped we’d have a horrible time getting lost,” he says in disappointment, since annoying little scenarios such as this were always his forte in his demon-days). Instead, they arrive into a perfectly empty car-park without issue, climb over a beachgrassy hill to find a perfect, pebbled expanse and a bright blue sea.

Blissfully empty of people.

Aziraphale starts cheerily down the rocky slope, picnic bag in one hand and beach towels in the other. “Isn’t this spectacular?”

Crowley twists his lips. “Not enough nasty tourists. Not enough bubblegum littered arcades. But it’ll do.”

They find a spot with some nicely shaped rocks that look comfortable to sit on. Crowley, being rather a perfectionist, fusses with the towels for a while until they’re just right, and Aziraphale waits patiently for him to smooth out every wrinkle and make himself happy. And thus they perch, side by side, in front of a sparkling sea. The volcanic pebbles in front of them drying in the sun, the smell of salt and seaweed and clear air. Aziraphale has remembered his sunglasses today and so contentedly reads in the warm sunshine, legs stretched out and crossed in front of him. He sits there for some time, powering through his book whilst Crowley lies quietly beside him- presumably sleeping.

Then, “What are you reading that sensationalist bollocks for?”

Aziraphale peers down at him with raised brows. “Excuse me?”

“Dante’s Divine Comedy? Really? You know how wildly misrepresentative that is,” Crowley says lazily, arms behind his head and staring up at the sky behind his glasses.

“Perhaps,” Aziraphale admits. “My short time in Hell doesn’t quite match up to old Dante’s description, but it’s interesting nonetheless. And besides, I’m trying to teach myself Italian.”

Crowley snorts. “Then read something good in Italian.”

“Hmm,” Aziraphale replies dismissively, returning his attention to his book. “Forgive me if I don’t trust your taste in literature.”

Crowley is famously the demon who encouraged Jeremy Clarkson to write so many memoirs.

At this, Crowley stretches luxuriously beside him like a cat. He makes a quiet hum to himself. “Come on then, angel. Let’s go for a dip.”

Aziraphale continues to read, turning the page delicately. “No, thank you.”

“Why not? We’re here, the sea’s there, it’s warm-”

“I haven’t brought a costume.”

“So? No one’s here, I was just gonna go in my pants.”

Aziraphale gives him a serious look, before returning, quite stoically, to his book. He’s already come out wearing shorts today, which is quite daring enough for him. He hasn’t worn a pair of shorts since 1967.

“I’m going to stay here and enjoy my book. Thank you.”

“You’re no fun.”

And Aziraphale glares at him then, because he knows that Crowley’s using his own words against him. Crowley is grinning smugly.

“Excuse me!” Aziraphale exclaims. “I’m the fun one out of the two of us. You’re the one who sneers at fun and says it’s embarrassing.”

“You’re embarrassing,” Crowley retorts with a childish pout.

“I’m not talking to you anymore.” Aziraphale looks down at the page, not really reading but staring at it nonetheless.

“Oh, come on. Come on, come on come on come on-”

“That won’t work on me,” Aziraphale sings.

And then Crowley sits up and leans in a little closer.

Are you sure? Dost thou not wish to live deliciously?” he says jokingly, in a voice which is probably quite half-hearted compared to the one he used to tempt Jesus, all those centuries ago.

But then, Jesus was a stronger man that Aziraphale.

He narrows his eyes at the demon, the distance between them significantly smaller and the light glinting off the edge of Crowley’s glasses, a smirk curling across his face. It sets his heart racing, just a little. His gaze moves to his lips before he can help it, and he hopes his expression is as composed as he thinks it is.

Then, Crowley’s smile withers and he pouts. “Not even just a paddle?”

Aziraphale huffs. It’s all he can do, before turning to look back at his book. “Abso-bloody-lutely not. There, see, you’ve made me use tmesis, you’ve truly irked me.”

“What’s tmesis-?”

“It’s when you split a word and stick another word in the middle, like abso-bloody-lut- oh. Hang on, very sly, but stop trying to butter me up by getting me to explain grammar. I’m cross with you and I shan’t come.”

Aziraphale wiggles his shoulders and sits up straight. Somewhere, in another dimension, his wings are ruffling defiantly. He’s enjoying this immensely.

“Alright,” Crowley says.

And then he stands up. And then he starts stripping. And Aziraphale can’t quite believe what he’s seeing. Crowley is pulling his t-shirt over his head and kicking off his brogues, whistling Queen to himself as he goes.

“What are you doing?” he asks, throat dry.

“What’s it look like I’m doing, I’m getting my kit off.”

“It’s going to be freezing.”

“You’re always the one saying I should have more fun. This is me. Having fun. And trying not to be disgusted by it,” Crowley argues, and Aziraphale looks away just in time as he whips off his trousers.

Good Lord.

“You’re just stripping till you’re practically naked.”

Crowley hops down from the rock and says, “Who said the two were exclusive?”

Aziraphale stares speechlessly as he goes, hobbling over the rocks towards the sea in nothing but his undercrackers (nothing that he hasn’t seen before, after that whole body swap situation, but still). Red hair gleaming in the sun. Dimples in his lower back. And that ridiculous saunter is even more distracting with quite so little clothing.

The angel takes a deep breath, shakes the thought out of his head, and looks down at his book. He absorbs absolutely nothing at all.

It’s always been quite funny to Aziraphale that he’s the one out of the two of them to do the daft, spontaneous, dangerous thing. It’s often Aziraphale who strolls into the burning building gormlessly, with Crowley running in after him. Aziraphale, the one to urge Crowley to let go and relax.

But he’d never imagined Crowley would actually listen to him when he said he was no fun. After all, it was only teasing.

Aziraphale has looked up from his book without realising. His eyes subconsciously search for Crowley, and they find him further down the beach, dipping his feet into the North Sea and swearing furiously.

The demon turns around and shakes his head emphatically. “Nope!” he shouts. “Fuck it! Too cold! You were right!”

Aziraphale smirks. “Oh, go on, you’ve committed now!”

Crowley gives him the middle finger and Aziraphale laughs. He continues to watch Crowley’s endeavours as he attempts to walk further into the bright, glittering ocean. The beach entirely empty, quiet, except for the sound of the waves and seagulls overhead. A little cruiser ship on the horizon and distant, grassy islands in clear sight. Crowley yelping and hopping about comically as he forces himself into the sea, hands in the air for balance.

Aziraphale’s head tilts slightly as he watches from a safe distance.

It’s not in his, or, in fact, any angel’s nature to be attracted to anyone. He feels love for all living creatures, of course, but the lustful type of love is not one he ought to be all that familiar with. However, Aziraphale is painfully aware of the fact that he isn’t like other angels. He eats sushi and drinks vintage red wine and records Countdown on his TV. Human pleasures are ones that he likes to indulge in.

And he’s not particularly exclusive as to which pleasures he indulges in.

Crowley is the only person who he has ever really, truly considered in that light. The only person he’s ever felt a physical, dare he say it, sexual attraction towards. It’s both parts alarming and intriguing. He supposes he should be more concerned that he has such thoughts. But he isn’t. After all, even if Aziraphale isn’t meant to be the type to be seduced, Crowley is meant, by design, to be attractive. So, it becomes a bit of a moot point.

And whilst sex not an earthly experience that he’s tried before, that’s not to say he wouldn’t be willing. If, of course, the opportunity arose- which it most likely never will. In his mind, it probably wouldn’t be all that different to a very good dessert.

He’s just saving it till last.

And for a very particular person.

Aziraphale’s eyes widen a little as this dawns on him. Honestly, he hadn’t realised any of this until right this very second, as he watches Crowley half submerge himself in the freezing cold North Sea, shouting shit shit shit fuck bollocks from afar.

He sighs desperately, casts his book aside, and stares up at the cloudless sky.

“Hello,” he says weakly. “Hope you’re well and all, God. Not to bother you, but- do you have to do this? If you could just make it clear as to why you had to make me feel like this about a demon, that would be truly wonderful.” Aziraphale pauses in his prayer to look back at Crowley, who’s swimming a little gingerly. He returns his gaze back up to the blue sky. “All I can think is that this must be some kind of test,” he continues. “Unless you have some other ineffable plan tucked up your sleeve, involving me making an absolute tit of myself. Excuse my language.”

A seagull laughs as it lands on the rock beside him, and Aziraphale sighs.

“I can see you’re busy,” Aziraphale mutters. “I’ll try again later.”

With that, he sighs again, fiddling with the sleeve of his shirt nervously. Crowley is sitting seemingly quite happily in the water, eyes and nose poking out over the surface like a crocodile and looking over in Aziraphale’s direction.

He waves him over.

Whatever test God might have laid out for him, Aziraphale is surely failing. He looks up at the sky once more. “I don’t know what you think you’re playing at, Old Chap.”

And so he leans forward, taking off his shoes carefully and setting them aside. Then his socks. And that’s all he’s taking off, thank you very much. He stands up and makes his way over to the shore, the rocks uncomfortable and hot under his feet. He hobbles awkwardly, concentrating quite hard on not falling over.

“Angel!” Crowley announces in triumph as he approaches.

“I’m never talking to you again,” he replies assuredly.

“It’s colder than a witch’s tit in a brass bra.”

“Wonderful,” Aziraphale says. The water laps against his toes and he yelps. “Oh bloody Hell!”

Crowley nods at him encouragingly, standing up in the water and laying his hands against the surface of the waves. His skin is shining with droplets.

Aziraphale steps in shin deep and plants his hands on his hips.

“There! Mission accomplished!” he announces with a proud smile.

Crowley’s expression is entirely disdain. “Is that it?”

“Well, I’m not getting in with my clothes on.”

“Suit yourself. Sure they’ll dry in no time in this weather, though.”

Aziraphale glares at him.

“Just being logical,” Crowley says with a shrug.

“You’re being a little shit, that’s what you’re being.”

And that makes Crowley laugh. It’s not often that Aziraphale will hear Crowley laugh, but when he does, it makes his heart do funny things.

“You’ll like it once you brave it and just throw yourself in.”

Aziraphale looks at Crowley, who stands a few metres away and looking, by anyone’s standards, divine. His shoulders have turned a little pink and freckled in the sun, and his smile is huge. He’s genuinely enjoying himself, which had sort of been Aziraphale’s plan in the first place, even if it is at his own expense. The angel casts one more resentful glance at the sky above, before squeezing his eyes shut and strolling into the ocean all the way to his waist.

The cold takes his breath away, his feet are numb and his entire body is covered in goosebumps. This ought to be awful but for some reason it’s quite pleasant, too. Painfully pleasant.

He sucks in a breath and holds his hands above the water. “Bollocks!” he eventually exclaims.

“There you go,” Crowley says.

Bollocks!” Aziraphale repeats. The bottom of his shirt is floating on the surface of the water.

“Well, you’ve come this far, you have to walk in all the way now.”

“Oh, stop it! You’re only halfway in yourself!”

“I’ve already swum about,” Crowley waves a hand at him. “You need to get to my level, angel.”

And then there’s that urge to tease and bicker and poke at Crowley. The immense desire to gently irritate him and do something embarrassing so he can roll his eyes and get a reaction. It suddenly overwhelms him, seeing Crowley’s smug little face.

It makes Aziraphale splash a handful of water at him.

Crowley stands there and scrunches up his face in surprise. And then he looks at him darkly.

“You started this with the wrong person.”

And Aziraphale finds himself grinning in giddy anticipation as Crowley wades over, and he doesn’t put up much of a fight when he dunks him underwater. Saltwater running up his nose and stinging his eyes, his sunglasses floating off. Falling bum first onto the rocky seabed and scrabbling back to the surface when he suddenly remembers he can’t miracle himself to breathe underwater.

He gasps for air and spits out a fountain of water. “You bastard.”

The sun is bright without his sunglasses and he winces, wiping water from his face. Crowley is already backing away with a nervous almost-smile, and Aziraphale does his best to catch up- it’s significantly more difficult to walk in water, it turns out- but he manages to get a hold of him and drags him under the surface with him.

The water is clear down here. The salt makes everything sting but it’s worth it; he can actually see the seabed, the seaweed rolling with the waves, one or two fish, even. And he can see Crowley, red hair billowing in the water and sunglasses absent, lost somewhere on the surface. His skin pale, his eyes strikingly yellow and watchful. They stare at each other for a long moment- before once again remembering they can’t breathe.

They both emerge at the same time. Crowley shakes his hair like a dog, and Aziraphale winces against the droplets.

“Thank you for that,” he says mildly.

“You realise I wasn’t going to dunk you in the water, you started that,” Crowley argues wiping water from his face, as if Aziraphale had said otherwise.

Instead of replying, he’s actually rather distracted by the way Crowley is slicking back his hair. And the way his skin looks flushed from the cold and his lips pink and-

Aziraphale knows he’s staring. He stares after Crowley too often, but it’s so, so hard not to. He sees the way Crowley self-consciously searches for his sunglasses, noticing them drift away a few feet to his left. Sees how he leans over for them, shaking them off. Then, Crowley frowns.

“Where are yours?” he asks.

Aziraphale sighs, returning to himself a little. “Oh, I suppose they’ve sunk.”

Crowley looks at him a little wearily, then hands him his own sunglasses, which Aziraphale takes. And then the demon takes a breath and plunges back under the water- Aziraphale sees him hanging there, searching, and then swim over to pick something up. When he comes back up a few seconds later, he shakes his hair out again, and he has Aziraphale’s sunglasses in hand.

Aziraphale smiles and his face feels warm. These little gestures mean more to him than Crowley could understand, and he’s almost too shy to look at him as he wades over, looking downright heroic and unfairly handsome, handing over Aziraphale’s sunglasses.

He takes them with his free hand, Crowley’s sunglasses still in his other. “Thank you,” he says, head ducked slightly as he looks up at him.

Crowley returns his gaze with his head tilted and brows pulled together, just a little. Gold eyes watching. He wonders, suddenly, how many times Crowley might have been looking at him like this without his noticing.

“You know,” Aziraphale says slowly, bravely. “I’ve always thought to myself, that it’s a shame you wear these sunglasses so often. You have such lovely eyes.”

And the soft look of surprise on his face- it’s almost tortured. No, definitely tortured; they both know what tortured looks like, after all. And it makes Aziraphale’s heart do somersaults, makes his stomach churn anxiously and his mind go terrifyingly empty, and the panic is suddenly overwhelming. He’s said too much, he’s gone too far. He’s threatening the status quo-

“Prosssssssecco,” Crowley suddenly announces, a bit too loudly.

Aziraphale blinks. Crowley only ever hisses when he’s stressed or angry. Or nervous. “Prosecco,” he repeats dumbly.

“It’ll get warm. We should go back and drink it before it gets warm.”

“And the sandwiches,” he adds a little dreamily.

“And the sandwiches,” Crowley repeats, voice strange.

For a moment, they hesitate, the water lapping up against them. And he has this instinct to lean forward and kiss him, taste the salt water on his lips- but his instincts are going too fast for him to handle.

“Right,” Aziraphale nods, taking a deep breath, and he begins wading out of the ocean, with difficulty.

He feels Crowley watch him, and he lets him.

And so, having stopped play-fighting in the water like children, they finish their strange but good afternoon eating sandwiches and drinking prosecco. They lie there for another couple of hours, drying off in the sun- which sets late at this time of year so far North. By the time Crowley is sobre enough to drive and dry enough to not ruin his car with sea water, it’s practically dinner time- Aziraphale finds, weirdly, that he isn’t all that hungry. They pass the supermarket on the way home stock up on supplies, which is an entertaining detour as the two of them attract a lot of suspicious looks. Not the typical Isle of Skye tourists, he supposes.

Their evening is quiet. It’s spent drinking decaffeinated tea and reading side by side on the sofa- or at least, on Crowley’s part, watching videos on his phone, with headphones. Every now and then, passing Aziraphale a judgemental glance for his choice in literature. And when the sun begins to set, casting a bright pink glow across the sky, they sit out on the porch and enjoy a glass of wine, watching the night fall till the stars appear in an unpolluted sky.

That fragile feeling humming between them once more.

Eventually, when Aziraphale decides to call it a night, he does so sheepishly, retiring to the bedroom and feeling immensely guilty about it. Crowley doesn’t make any complaint about the arrangement that they have, and says that he might sit outside a while longer before hitting the hay- or, rather, the sofa. Aziraphale tries to calm his mind by reading a little, before turning out the light and going to sleep.

He wakes up at some point to find Crowley sliding carefully under the sheets. Snake eyes iridescent in the dark.

“Goodnight, Crowley,” he says sleepily.

He already feels himself falling asleep again when he hears, “Goodnight, angel.”

Chapter Text

A ballroom. Black and white, like from an old movie, and an unnaturally large moon casting silver light on the parquet floor. Crowley sits on the grand piano, which plays itself miraculously- some sweeping ballad that would be a fitting backdrop to a wife waving her husband off to war. And he waits, legs crossed over one another and snake tongue darting anxiously out of his mouth.

Then Aziraphale appears, drifting into the room. Soft expression on his face, soft glow around him, soft in every way, soft enough that Crowley is afraid he’ll break him- even though he knows that really, he’s the softer one of the two of them.

Wordlessly they meet in the middle of the ballroom, the piano playing its sweeping tune, and Aziraphale’s hand takes his, the other resting on his shoulder- all the while, looking up at him with that wide-eyed, innocent gaze that he’s seen so many times and dreamed of so many more times than this. And they dance across the empty floor, the moon watching over them (and that might be the Eiffel Tower in the distance), Crowley pulling him close to him as they waltz.

Aziraphale dips him to the floor, looking down at him with an ethereal smile. And as Crowley stands back upright again, slowly, he rests a hand on Aziraphale’s cheek. Looking into eyes that he can’t quite see properly; he can’t focus-

Don’t leave me, he hears himself say, trying to hold onto the image of Aziraphale glowing, leaning in to kiss him.

That’s when he wakes up. He cracks his eyes open slowly, a dull, grey light pouring through the break in the curtain. It’s warm under the sheets and he’s found himself on the right hand side of the bed, which is unusual for him-

That realisation makes his heart start. He turns slowly in bed, as carefully as possible. And there, lying peacefully beside him, is a sleeping Aziraphale. Nowhere near as perfect or literally glowing as the one in his dreams, but much more real.

He’s a lot better in real life.

Crowley closes his eyes again and sighs. He’s unbearably infuriated with himself for being so uselessly in love; all he can do is follow him around like a faithful dog and dream about him. Dream ridiculous dreams about him like it’s the 1930s again and all Aziraphale wants is him.

Oh, if the world were to know just how much of a hopeless romantic Crowley is- he’d have to burn the whole place down.

Burying his face in his pillow, he sighs through his nose and feels his breath heat up his face. And Aziraphale’s gentle snoring makes him, against all common sense, smile. He wants to groan in annoyance, but can’t find it in himself.

The real reason he’d moved to the sofa the night before last wasn’t because the snoring annoyed him. It was because he couldn’t stop imagining himself in some happy, fairy-tale future where they just happened to share a bed all the time, Aziraphale snoring beside him. It had made him feel too many confusing things, lying there beside him, drunk and unable to sleep. And so he had dragged himself to the sofa and waited for the room to stop moving, tucked under a blanket and hating himself for agreeing to come to Scotland.

As if being in love with an angel isn’t a stupid enough idea. Agreeing to a week long holiday with him was just masochistic.

Just as Crowley has decided to get up and stop wallowing, he hears the rain start. He listens as the fat raindrops plink against the glass.

“Good thing you packed for all occasions,” Crowley mutters to the sleeping Aziraphale.

The angel’s gentle, relaxed face scrunches slightly, the creases in his brow furrowed. Grey light catching his hair like silver. He aches to run his fingers through that hair, maybe stroke his cheek. Instead, Crowley watches, captivated, as Aziraphale takes a deep breath, nuzzling his pillow.

And then open his eyes. Sleepy, blue-green eyes finding Crowley immediately. And an unreserved, thoughtless smile that makes Crowley a little awestruck.

“Crowley,” he greets him lazily, still smiling and eyes falling shut again. He sounds so content. He can’t imagine for a second why Aziraphale would be so pleased to see him.

“Angel,” he replies quietly.

He hates how in love he sounds.

Aziraphale rubs his face sleepily. It’s all just too endearing for Crowley to handle. He needs to go punch something to release whatever’s making his heart wriggle around.

“Is it raining?” Aziraphale murmurs.

“‘Fraid so.”

Aziraphale frowns for a moment, seeming displeased with this. But then, the expression quickly shifts into one of resignation. “Cosy day indoors it is, then.”

Crowley listens to the raindrops patter more loudly against the glass, lying on his side and watching the way Aziraphale stretches and sighs happily. In six thousand years, he’s never seen Aziraphale asleep, till now. Never seen him wake up in the mornings, and never seen him so relaxed. Eventually, Aziraphale kicks away the sheets, pulling some of them off Crowley in the process.

“Oi,” he grumbles, without much conviction.

“Oh, goodness, sorry.”

Aziraphale earnestly replaces the covers on the bed, and Crowley peers up at him resentfully from the safety of the sheets. The angel stretches his arms in the air, pyjama shirt rising slightly above the waistband of the matching bottoms. Crowley does his best not to let his eyes dart down to see the skin that shows.

Then, Aziraphale announces: “I’ll put the kettle on, shall I? Looks like we’ll be drinking a lot of tea today, with this weather. We’ll probably be stuck inside doing bugger all but drink and lounge around.”

Crowley’s not sure how to agree to that without admitting that this plan sounds absolutely bloody perfect. So, instead, he merely says: “Alright.”

Aziraphale smiles and gives a little decisive nod, before turning to the living room and closing the door behind him- not fully, just a little ajar. Crowley listens to the distant clatter of him popping open the kettle lid, filling it up with water, clicking it on. The gentle hiss of the water boiling. Aziraphale absent-mindedly humming to himself, the rain still pouring. The milkman doesn’t come today with his dog, and he imagines that Aziraphale is a little disappointed. Crowley stares through the strangely comforting grey light at the ceiling as he listens.

“Crowley?”

Crowley props up his head with an arm, smiling to himself. “Yes?” he calls.

“Do you want a slice of toast? If you do, I’ll take the butter out of the fridge now so it’ll melt properly.”

Crowley closes his eyes and winces. In moments like this, he can almost pretend that Aziraphale sees him as more than just a friend.

“Yeah,” he says a little weakly. “Yeah, I wouldn’t say no to toast. I’ll be out in a minute.”

He lies there for another moment. And he gathers his strength as best he can, to get through the day and the aching in his chest.

***

The world is still going on about all the nonsense that happened during the Nopocalyse. It shouldn’t be a surprise, but Crowley does wonder when they’re going to stop banging on about the sushi restaurant on the West coast of Japan that’s selling sashimi from one of the Cracken’s dismembered tentacles. He’s disinterestedly reading a review of it on Time Out magazine’s website, when Aziraphale closes his book decisively and makes a satisfied sigh.

“Well. That was wonderful.”

Crowley eyes the book, sans sunglasses. It’s doesn’t look like a particularly long book, but they’ve only been sitting here for a couple of hours. “Did you just read that whole thing in one sitting?”

“Yes,” the angel replies, sounding quite frankly offended that he’d question such a thing. “It was very good. Mr Philip K. Dick certainly knows his way around words. You know, humans are so imaginative.”

“Hmm,” Crowley replies, returning to the article on his phone.

Comment #238 DanTheMan: Imagine the calamari you could make out of that sodding thing! Anyone reckon the cracken will come back anytime soon, maybe swing by Norfolk this time? lol

He loses interest and looks back up at Aziraphale, who sits on the other side of the sofa to him, staring at the rain that streaks down the window. Grey sky and the strange light it casts making his eyes somehow bluer. He seems so relaxed. So horribly soft and huggable.

Crowley pokes him with his foot. Aziraphale looks down at the offending foot, clad in chilli pepper socks.

“Do you mind?”

“Not particularly,” he replies lazily. “Want another cup of tea?”

“Ooh, yes.” Before Crowley has the chance to get up and make a pot himself, Aziraphale pushes himself off the sofa.

The aga is on, making the apartment warm and Crowley very sleepy. A nap would be great right about now. He wiggles his toes contentedly, shutting his eyes and dropping his phone on his chest. Listens to Aziraphale fuss about with more tea and potter about the living room.

There’s a quiet gasp, and Crowley prepares himself for whatever comes next.

“What is it,” he asks wearily.

“Look what I’ve found!”

He’s holding a board game in his hands. Scrabble, to be precise, and is waving it in front of Crowley with an air of anticipation mixed with oooooh! noises.

“No.”

He’s wearing a huge grin and sporting big, excited eyes. “Oooh! Aaaah!” he continues, displaying it in his hands like he’s modelling jewellery for an infomercial.

“You’re- I don’t- are you trying to tempt me, because it isn’t working.”

“It’ll be fun!” Aziraphale beams.

“I don’t like words. Reading, writing, or forming them in any other way.”

Aziraphale ignores him and begins setting up the Scrabble board on the coffee table. The kettle clicks in the kitchen, but the angel continues with the task at hand, quite determined- to the point that he even rolls up the sleeves of his cream cable knit jumper and kneels down on corduroy trousers to divvy up the tiles. Crowley lies on the sofa and watches with increasing acceptance.

“You know that Hell invented most board games, don’t you?” Crowley argues.

Aziraphale holds up a finger. “Only the ones with four players or more.”

Crowley tuts. He wishes he hadn’t told Aziraphale all about their plans for Monopoly to destroy happy families around the world. He really tells the angel too much. Aziraphale, on the other hand, looks very proud of himself for holding such forbidden knowledge.

But then, he turns and looks at Crowley, kneeling by the coffee table and gazing imploringly. “Really- what will it take for me to get you to play a round of Scrabble with me?”

For a demon of temptation, Crowley really ought to be able to resist it better. And for an angel, Aziraphale really ought to be a bit less tempting.

Crowley considers his answer. Then, “You can make a fresh pot of tea.”

At the request of such an easy task, Aziraphale grins, gets up and hurries to the kitchen. Crowley silently rebukes himself for being such a giant push over. He returns with a pot with a tea cosy and places it on a cork mat by the scrabble game- grabs two cushions, one on each side of the table on the floor. Aizraphale takes the far side, kneeling and straightening out his jumper, before smiling expectantly at him.

“This is going to be wildly unfair,” Crowley remarks from the sofa.

Aziraphale appears slightly smug, and doesn’t argue. “You don’t have to win to have fun.”

“What’s the point of boardgames if you don’t win,” he mutters. “Or make someone cry.”

Aziraphale gives him a look, and Crowley slides lazily off the sofa, taking a cross legged position on the floor- or at least, as much as his tight trousers will allow. He decides to pull the blanket off the back of the sofa and wrap himself up till he looks a bit like a tartaned, demonic Mother Teresa. There’s a brief flash of light from outside, and the two of them look to the window. A low rumble follows shortly after.

“I rather like this sort of weather,” Aziraphale says distantly, pouring them both tea. “It’s comforting.”

“Only if you’re not standing in it.”

And for a moment- just for this short moment- Crowley allows himself to soak the scene in. Aziraphale breathing in the steam of his tea, held between cupped hands. A small, thoughtless smile on his face. That smile turning into a frown as he measures the lettered tiles in front of him. The two of them in a cosy cottage in Skye playing Scrabble under blankets, because, apparently, that’s what they are now.

Crowley doesn’t know what that is, exactly. But it’s unbearably pleasant. He doesn’t know what to do with this kind of niceness. A niceness and feeling of home that he’s craved since forever and simultaneously is terrified of.

***

Half an hour later, and the rain is still pouring.

“I swear, Crowley,” Aziraphale complains, “If you do what I think you’re about to do, I’ll never talk to you ever again.”

Crowley purses his lips. He looks at the ‘z’ tile in his hand, which will give him ten points. He looks at the board, where he intends to make the word ‘trapeze’ out of Aziraphale’s ‘trap’. It’s going to run onto a ‘double word score’ space, too.

“You don’t know what I’m going to do,” he says conspiratorially.

“I know exactly what you’re going to do, because you have that face.”

“‘That’ face?”

“Yes, that face! The smirk you have when you- well, last week, when you miracled the traffic lights to stay red so you could cross the road, and you caused an accident on Oxford Street.”

“Only a small one, no one got hurt,” he mutters.

“You’re going to take the space that I was going to use, I can just tell.”

Crowley raises his eyebrows at Aziraphale, who’s now wearing his face. The grumpy face he makes when he doesn’t get what he wants.

“Whatever happened to ‘you don’t have to win to have fun’?” he mimics.

Aziraphale sighs. Folds his arms across his chest and looks out of the window, as if he can’t bear to watch anymore. “Fine. Go on, make your move, demon.”

Crowley looks down at the piece in his hand, and back at the board. Then, he takes the ‘i’ from his range of letters and spells ‘zit’ with the existing ‘t’ on the board. Aziraphale visibly relaxes. Eyes flicking up at Crowley apologetically.

“I thought you were going to…”

“That’s my move,” Crowley gestures to the board. “I don’t know what you’re talking about. What else did you think I was gonna do?”

Aziraphale smiles to himself, and Crowley doesn’t miss the slight blush that meets his cheeks.

***

“You- I can’t believe this. I swear to fucking God, you- you sly bastard, you’re more of a bastard than me. I can’t believe what I’m seeing.”

Aziraphale smiles serenely as he delicately places his pieces along the bottom right hand corner of the board- top left for Crowley- making the word ‘quintessentially’. Out of Crowley’s sodding word, no less: quintessential. The ‘y’ fits on the ‘triple word score’.

“I don’t know what you’re implying,” he replies seriously.

“I can’t even look at you right now.”

“I only had these three letters left,” Aziraphale says innocently.

“It’s so obvious that I’ve been saving my pieces to do that-”

“Well, I’m sorry if you didn’t manage to get there first, Crowley.”

“You- I literally can’t handle this. You’ve been consorting with demons too long-”

“So that leaves us with, let’s see… Crowley: one hundred and thirty two points, and me- ah, let me quickly do the maths-”

“One hundred and sixty,” Crowley growls.

“One hundred and sixty,” Aziraphale repeats sweetly.

Crowley just shakes his head in disbelief as Aziraphale begins packing up the board without a hint of apology in his smile.

“There’s a place in hell for you, angel.”

At that, Aziraphale finally cracks, chuckling a little to himself, shoulders shaking. “I am sorry. Genuinely.”

“No you’re fucking not, don’t insult me by lying straight to my face.”

Aziraphale laughs properly then. Crowley helps him gather up the rest of the letter tiles.

“Why didn’t you spell the word you actually wanted to play?”

Crowley frowns and shrugs. “I did, angel.”

“No, you didn’t,” Aziraphale says quietly. “You know I wasn’t being serious when I said I’d never speak to you again. You really are too nice, Crowley.”

The flare of emotion that rolls over him makes him speechless. He’s angry, defensive- he can’t accept compliments where they aren’t due. Internally, Crowley wrestles with his screaming fear. Externally, he exhales.

“Yeah, well,” he says with some resignation. “‘Just don’t go telling the rest of the world I do nice things. They’ll only get the wrong idea. I only do nice things for you.”

It’s probably the most dangerous thing he’s ever said.

Thousands of years of arguing back with Beelzebub, Lord of Hell. Thousands of years of provoking powerful kings and rulers all over the world. Thousands of years of starting wars and creating a Hell on Earth. And yet the words that have just left his mouth are the most dangerous he’s ever said.

And he can’t stop himself from running away.

He sweeps up from the floor and roughly grabs the Scrabble box from Aziraphale’s hands, stuffing it back on the shelf and going to boil the kettle again, just for something to do. Aziraphale remains seated on the floor- and Crowley can tell that he’s being watched as he shakily rinses out their mugs.

***

The room is warm and filled with the scent of baking. Aziraphale had found some vanilla essence at the back of the cupboard and decided upon making some cupcakes with the rest of the pancake ingredients. Whilst they bake, he reads another book and sits in a far more relaxed position on the sofa than before, legs curled up underneath him. The aga has made the whole cottage even warmer and Crowley sleepy all over again. His snake pupils have probably dilated stupidly and made him look like he’s high on cat-nip.

The thought briefly makes him think about Aziraphale’s comment on his eyes yesterday, and he shakes his head to himself. Better not to dwell on those things and make this situation any more difficult.

Though his eyes are closed, he hears Aziraphale take a deep breath as he emerges from the story he’s reading, putting his book down. “That rain isn’t letting up, is it.”

Crowley stretches, eyes still shut. “Nope.”

“I hope it isn’t like this all week. I was hoping we could go see the fairy glen.”

“Fairies,” he repeats with some surprise. The patter of rain against window continues. He’s immensely comfortable. “How pagan. Fantastic.”

He can picture the expression on Aziraphale’s face, which makes him smirk.

“There’s also the rather fantastic castles.”

“Like a good castle.”

“I know,” Aziraphale says gently.

Crowley opens his eyes and sees Aziraphale looking. The moment their eyes meet Azriaphale looks away. Crowley blinks at him. Pokes him with his foot again, for lack of anything better to do, or say.

“Stop it,” Aziraphale replies without much conviction, staring into the distance.

And it’s only then that Crowley notices. He can smell- or rather, taste- smoke in the air.

“Um. Angel. I think I can smell the cupcakes catching.”

Aziraphale looks at him like he’s just woken up. “Sorry?”

“Your cakes. They’re burning.”

The angel’s eyes widen and he leaps up from the sofa. “Shit! Oh, double, triple shit!”

Crowley sits up and watches Aziraphale flap about in the kitchen. He’s grabbing the oven gloves and opening the aga, pulling the cake tin and dropping them on the top of the stove. Crowley props his chin on the back of the sofa.

“Did you save them?”

“No,” Aziraphale laments, shoulders sagging. “I’ve ruined them entirely. They’ve gone all black and crispy on the top.”

“It’ll be alright,” Crowley says gently.

Aziraphale ruffles the top of his feather white head, looking like he’s having to remind himself that he can’t miracle them better. “I was trying to do something nice,” he mutters, and Crowley’s taken aback by how upset he actually sounds.

“They’re only cupcakes, angel.”

No, they’re not, though.”

Crowley wishes he could understand what that means. Aziraphale drops the gloves and heaves a great sigh, leaning against the counter, looking angry with himself.

“I mess up the simplest things,” Aziraphale says weakly.

That makes him frown. He doesn’t know where this has come from. Aziraphale has seemed so relaxed all day. And now, a tray of burned cupcakes seem to have completely ruined that mood.

“What are you talking about,” he says, frustration seeping into his voice.

Aziraphale’s lips twitch and pout, as if he’s thinking about how to answer. He shakes his head to himself, face twisted in upset, and wonders over to the sofa again. Cakes abandoned. “It doesn’t matter.”

“This isn’t about cupcakes,” Crowley presses. “Come on, what’s this about?”

“It doesn’t matter,” Aziraphale argues pointedly. He picks up his book and opens it. And for a moment, Crowley thinks that’s the last of it. But then, Aziraphale harrumphs and puts his book page down on his lap. “I just- I always get it wrong, when it really matters.”

Crowley blinks at him. “Cakes?” he says disbelievingly.

Aziraphale closes his eyes and shakes his head minutely. “Whether it’s, oh I don’t know… failing to do anything actually useful at the apocalypse. Or getting arrested or losing that blasted sword. I just- I always get it wrong. And I’m a coward, Crowley, that’s what makes it worse. I get scared off and I don’t get back up and try again, I don’t accept my mistakes, I just- labour over how I should have done things better, torture myself over what’s right and wrong or good and bad and never actually do anything.”

The angel takes a long, shuddering breath, before exhaling slowly, calming himself. His brow pinched and eyes too bright. The rain crashes against the windows and Aziraphale seems to take no notice, staring distantly into the fireplace. Hands resting perfectly in his lap. Back dead straight.

Crowley looks out of the window into the dark outside. There’s a quick flash of lightning.

And then he stands up and grabs the car keys from the bowl on the coffee table.

Aziraphale sits up impossibly straighter. “What are you doing?”

“I’ll be back in twenty minutes.”

“Crowley-?”

He doesn’t look at Aziraphale before he opens the door and steps out into the rain- he can’t bare to see the expression on his face right now. He jogs over to the Bentley, the rain soaking through his t-shirt- hadn’t seemed much point getting a jacket since he was only going to his car- and shuts himself in. The window steams up from the inside. He sees Aziraphale open the front door and stand there, watching helplessly as Crowley pulls away, turning the windscreen wipers on and backing out onto the country road. The rain water runs down his face, and he shivers. It’s then that he remembers to find a pair of sunglasses in the glove compartment before driving inland.

He’s a fool for doing this. Such a fool for doing any of this.

***

When he returns twenty five minutes later, he pulls in outside the cottage and sees the front door fly open, Aziraphale stepping out into the rain. And the look of desperation on his face is startling. Crowley gathers himself before getting out of the car.

He’s immediately welcomed by the downpour, and a flash of lightning. He feels his hair being pasted to his face, the cold water running down his back. And Aziraphale strides towards him, shouting over the storm.

“What are you doing you fucking moron, get back inside!”

“Crowley, I’m sorry! Please don’t be upset I’m- I’m sorry for being so pathetic, whatever it is that I said I’m- please forgive me. Will you forgive me?”

The two of them stare at each other, the rain soaking them and the air rumbling with thunder. Aziraphale’s lips are pressed together, and he looks close to tears.

“What are you talking about?” Crowley demands.

Aziraphale winces as water runs into his eyes. He wipes the rain away. “You mean you aren’t- angry at me?”

Complete, utter confusion leaves Crowley speechless. All he does is raise the increasingly soggy brown paper bag in his hand. Aziraphale’s watery blue eyes blink at it, and he sniffs. His blonde hair is darkening with rain water, flattening against his face. Crowley watches the angel’s features soften with understanding, lips parting.

“Christ. I only went to the cafe down the road,” Crowley says in quiet disbelief. “Th-they had cakes, I thought- it’s just a chocolate muffin, or something, I don’t really know-”

And his words trickle away. The rain runs down Aziraphale’s cheeks as he steps closer and places his hands on either side of Crowley’s face.

“What…” Crowley tries.

There’s more in Aziraphale’s look right now than Crowley knows what to do with. Then his eyes look down at Crowley’s lips.

Crowley watches in anticipation, joy and absolute terror as Aziraphale leans in close. And then he can’t watch any longer, his eyes fall shut and he feels Aziraphale’s breath against his lips- a hesitating, shaky breath. Cold hands against his skin. The rain pouring down his face. The feeling of anticipatory almost reaching its crest after thousands of years of pretending. A moment, frozen.

And then a kiss.

Chapter Text

For all his pomp and swagger, for all the biting defensiveness and pretence that he doesn’t care, Crowley’s kiss is fragile.

His face is cold, but his breath is warm. And Aziraphale holds onto him, rests his hands on Crowley’s cheeks and holds him together. He feels Crowley shivering, and he doesn’t know if it’s because of the rain or because he is falling apart. Either way, Aziraphale hopes that he feels loved. He hopes this achingly gentle, knowing kiss makes him feel seen. He needs for him to know that he is seen.

The boom of thunder makes Aziraphale pull away, look up at the sky. The weather is doing some awfully strange things. The sun is bright and there’s a rainbow, but the clouds are pitch black and the rain is horizontal, like two seasons crashing together at once. He looks back down at Crowley, water dripping from his sunglasses, lips parted and speechless, and his skin pale from the cold.

Aziraphale stands back and takes his hand, drags him inside with one more apprehensive look at the warring weather above.

The moment Crowley shuts the door behind him- with some effort, the wind giving him a good fight- the quiet of inside the cottage suddenly becomes strikingly obvious. Outside, the gale howls and the windows rattle a little. In here, the only sound is them, their heavy breathing and the water dripping from Crowley’s clothes onto the stone kitchen floor. His black shirt is stuck to his body and his hair is messy. There’s none of the artfully damp, slicked back style from yesterday at the beach.

Aziraphale hovers in the living room, and watches Crowley. Crowley stands in the kitchen and gazes back.

Aziraphale huffs a half-laugh, swallows nervously, looks the other way. “Now what?” he breathes.

There’s a long pause. And then, Crowley steps towards him. At first slowly, then with purpose. And for a very short moment, Aziraphale thinks he’s done the wrong thing, thinks he’s misread the signs- he prepares for Crowley to pin him against the wall and shout at him again, but instead Crowley’s hands fly to his face and he’s brought into an abrupt kiss. The surprise and momentum push Aziraphale stumbling back into the bookcase, his hands grappling for something to hold onto, knocking books to the floor, until he gives up and rests his hands on Crowley’s shoulders. Gasping in shock against his cold lips.

And he feels like he’s meant to be there, like it is has all come down to this- the two of them fighting to be closer, two galaxies crashing together after millennia of orbiting, inevitable.

Six thousand years, and yet it feels so sudden- Aziraphale struggles to catch his breath, still finds himself fumbling for balance, grabbing hold of Crowley’s wet t-shirt for dear life. And he kisses back with all the enthusiasm that he can, with all the things that he’s been too much of a coward to say all this time. It makes their kiss messy. And the noise that Crowley hums into his mouth is so longing that Aziraphale thinks at first that it must have been himself who actually made that sound- because Crowley can’t possibly have been feeling the same as him all this time.

Of course he has, he thinks to himself suddenly. Oh, what a fool I’ve been.

He feels fingers running through his hair and the bookshelves digging uncomfortably into his back, and it’s almost too much- it’s almost too much, but for once in Aziraphale’s life, he’s not putting on the brakes. He lets his brain catch up with every sensation, let’s himself feel Crowley crowding up against him and kissing with slow determination, tastes the fresh rain water on his skin and hears their breathes. And then he responds, hands cupped just below Crowley’s jawline, the back of his goosebumped neck, down his chest and all these places that he’s seen but never felt before.

The kiss is broken as Crowley exhales roughly- in shock, is pleasure, in relief, Aziraphale isn’t sure.

“I didn’t think that-” Crowley tries. His voice sounds so broken- strained with the threat of tears, bottom lip pouting. “I didn’t think that you felt-”

Crowley doesn’t continue, just weakly shakes his head. Aziraphale doesn’t need to hear the rest. He strokes Crowley’s cheek, and he dips his face against Aziraphale’s palm needily.

“I’m so sorry my dear,” he says quietly. He is amazed by how calm and collected he sounds. “I’m sorry it took me so long to show you. You’ve been so patient.”

At that, Crowley shakes his head, his face crumpling. “Don’t say that,” he sobs. “Don’t say it like that, I never saw it that way-”

It’s so hard to see him like this, and it makes Aziraphale want to cry, too- he feels the pain of it in his throat. So he smiles, reaches out a hand to take off Crowley’s sunglasses. Huge, yellow eyes staring desperately at him. Blinking tears away.

“We took our time, eh?” Aziraphale laughs weakly. He hopes it’ll make Crowley smile. It does.

He drops the sunglasses on the floor.

Aziraphale presses a feather light kiss against Crowley’s cheek. He feels him shivering beneath his hold. He plants another kiss on his forehead, Crowley’s shoulders shaking with uneven breaths. And he leaves one more kiss against his lips.

“I love you,” Aziraphale says. He draws every ounce of adoration he’s ever felt for the universe and pours it into those words. Crowley’s breath stutters. “I love you.”

“I love you,” Crowley mirrors.

“I love-”

Crowley’s hands wrap around him, pull him impossibly closer, and they’re kissing again- deeply, trying to pour themselves into each other. And the feeling of it all, of lips against lips and hands finding bare skin, it’s- remarkable. Totally unexpected and unlike anything he could have imagined. Far more intimate and dizzying and real than he could ever have thought. So unfamiliar that he hears himself make quiet noises of surprise, hears himself responding strangely to Crowley’s body with sounds that he’s never heard himself make.

There’s a flash of lightening and very shortly afterwards the rumble of thunder.

Crowley’s lips move softly against his jawline, down his neck. Aziraphale draws in a slow, shuddering breath and presses his hands into Crowley’s back.

And then he laughs.

“Tickles,” he breathes, somewhat delighted by this discovery.

He feels Crowley’s lips pull into a smile.

Aziraphale bends his neck slightly, allows Crowley to kiss him there- and he doesn’t bite, or suck, like he expects him to. He simply kisses him, so delicately, and it’s all Aziraphale can do not to let his knees collapse beneath him, one hand flying to the bookshelves for support. The breath rushes out of him with an aaah- an unfamiliar response to anything, for him, except perhaps in the case of getting into a warm bath.

“Am I moving too fast,” Crowley says in a low voice.

“No,” Aziraphale replies instantly, shaking his head shakily. “God, no.”

“Because,” Crowley says, and for a second, it’s as if he’s forgotten what he was going to say. Aziraphale’s eyes are closed and he feels Crowley kiss further down his neck, almost nuzzling him. Hands searching for the edge of his jumper. “Because… we don’t need to do any of this kind of stuff… I just need to hear you say that you…”

And Crowley doesn’t finish, takes a heavy breath and rests his lips against Aziraphale’s neck. Perhaps he’s too ashamed to say the rest. Luckily for him, Aziraphale knows.

He understands now.

“I will tell you that I love you every day for the rest of our horrible, immortal lives,” he says, leaning his head against the bookshelves. “It’s all I’ve wanted to do for a long time.”

Crowley’s shoulders heave with a huge breath- it blossoms against Aziraphale’s skin deliciously and it makes him, quite instinctively, arch his back. They suddenly press closer, Crowley whines quietly.

“For now,” Aziraphale stutters. “You can keep doing whatever you were planning on doing. If you would.”

At that, Crowley’s hands wind underneath Aziraphale’s jumper and shirt, pushing up layers of wet clothes and running up his back. Aziraphale sighs.

“Your hands are cold,” he whispers with a smile.

Crowley simply crowds him against the bookshelves, face still buried in the crook of his neck.

“I didn’t think that you would,” Crowley tries. Huffs against his skin again, and Aziraphale shivers. “I didn’t think you’d be interested in this sort of thing.”

“Why ever not?”

Finally, Crowley looks up, looking more than dazed- dizzy. Or Aziraphale’s the one who’s dizzy, simultaneously wanting to push himself against Crowley’s wandering hands and arch his back towards his body. It’s a confusing dichotomy, and one that he finds he’s enjoying.

“Well,” Crowley blinks. Yellow eyes barely yellow now, pupils blown quite extraordinarily. “I suppose I thought. You being an angel.” His voice is rough. He swallows. “And sex being supposedly corrupt.”

It almost makes Aziraphale laugh. He smiles at Crowley and says, “I think, by now, I’m quite corrupt enough. I’ve not tried very hard to be innocent.”

And the shocked, somewhat dazzled smile on Crowley’s face is enough to make Aziraphale pull him close and kiss him messily, more urgently. Crowley moaning with what sounds like relief against his lips. And even if he’s confident that this is what he wants, he’s not quite sure if he can be the one to start taking off clothes, he doesn’t know if he can initiate-

Oh, problem solved, he thinks, as Crowley moves to pull off his jumper and shirt. And without really understanding how, Aziraphale finds Crowley’s t-shirt is gone too- it couldn’t have been miracled away, and yet there he is, shirtless and looking at him with wide eyes. Perhaps it was him who did that after all. He’s feeling somewhat proud of himself, and it must show, because Crowley smiles fondly- in a way that makes his heart flip- and then they’re kissing again. Both of them grinning wildly between kisses and hands roaming over each other. They’ve both warmed up significantly after being outside in the rain. The shivering, shallow breaths that they both shared before have changed to something else- something closer to panting, keening gasps.

Aziraphale leans into him and Crowley pulls him closer until they’re backing blindly into the corridor, possibly towards the bedroom, possibly towards a wall or a sofa or a pile of clothes, who knows. Neither one of them are willing to part their kiss to find out- they’re making up for lost time. Until, with a disgruntled oof, Crowley crashes into a door.

“Sorry,” Aziraphale winces.

The door swings open. It is, after all, the bedroom.

“Luck of the devil,” Crowley smirks.

“Hmm,” Aziraphale replies with raised brows, feeling nowhere near present enough for it to sound truly disapproving.

The realisation of where they are, what their doing and their semi-nakedness makes them both pause. Crowley blinks at him dumbly for a moment, red hair damp and messy from Aziraphale’s wandering hands. Dark eyes looking him up and down, hands on his shoulders. And it makes Aziraphale feel terribly self-conscious for a moment, before Crowley leans in and kisses him again. Slowly, meaningfully. Cautiously. It’s dark in the bedroom, but a flash of lightning outside illuminates the place suddenly. And somehow, without knowing quite how, being so lost in the moment, Aziraphale finds that they’re both on the bed, and Crowley’s arching his back and pulling him down against him, their leg’s tangling and fingers gently tracing down Aziraphale’s back and the rain hammering against the window.

And the feeling of Crowley’s fingers slowly running along his spine is- well, it’s- it’s-

It’s something. And it’s a lot of effort to keep his wings from bursting into reality and spreading feathers across the room.

Crowley’s kissing him, writhing underneath him, trying to get impossibly closer to him- and until now, he hadn’t been able to comprehend how it would feel to be this aroused. It’s not something that he’d been prepared for, it’s not in his vocabulary, but he’s very interested in expanding that vocabulary to fit it in, and it’s-

Oh,” he ends up saying aloud, surprised and fascinated and all sorts of things that ‘oh’ really doesn’t cover.

Crowley pulls away, blinks blearily at him, pupils dilating and contracting like he’s trying to refocus. “Good ‘oh’?” he asks hoarsely, breathing heavily.

“Yes, definitely good ‘oh’.”

Aziraphale takes a moment to just look at him. Because he’s seen Crowley in almost every situation- seen him smile, scream in frustration and even cry. But he’s never seen him like this- looking up at him openly and sharp edges softened. Looking, if he didn’t know better, a little nervous. Pouting lips parted and brows raised in gentle surprise. Messy hair spread out against a pillow. And judging by the way Crowley’s staring back, he might be thinking similar thoughts about Aziraphale. Neither one of them have been in quite such a compromising position. He doubts he looks anything as amazing as Crowley.

“You’re beautiful, my dear,” Aziraphale says assuredly.

And Crowley’s brows pull together, tortured. Imploring. “Please,” he chokes. And it sounds like he’s complaining, but the small, vulnerable smile on his face says different.

Aziraphale can’t quite believe he’s never said it before. Can’t quite cope with Crowley’s disbelief. “You are.”

Crowley sighs, hands running up and down his back.

Aziraphale leans down to kiss him, softly, and adds, “I love you.”

Crowley sighs again. And something in him seems to relax- Aziraphale can practically feel him melt underneath him, a tenseness in his body that he hadn’t realised was there disappearing entirely. Crowley’s hands rest lazily on his hips as Aziraphale follows Crowley’s lead- leaning down to his neck to leave traces of kisses. The gasp that Crowley makes sounds more like a sob.

“Angel,” he says, somewhere in between a warning and a prayer.

That little nickname has taken a completely different meaning, now. Aziraphale hums in quiet realisation.

And he continues to whisper all the things he’s thought but never said, pointing out everything about Crowley that has always blown him away- the reaction is far more positive than he’d expected. Crowley absorbs it like he’s parched earth and Aziraphale’s the rain.

Saying all of this aloud is so different to just thinking it. It awakens a strange possessiveness in him that he’d always felt, deep down about Crowley- whether it was jealousy in seeing him with partners, or an urge to whisk him away from Heaven and Hell and anyone else who might have treated him poorly. A knowledge that he’s the only one to have said anything like this to Crowley that simultaneously breaks his heart and makes him feel incredibly special. A knowledge that they’re the only ones to truly understand one another.

It’s what encourages him, quite subconsciously, to nip at Crowley’s neck. It earns him a gasp and the subsequent:

Fuck,” Crowley says hoarsely. His hands pulling him close. Then, with an irritated little growl, “Where did you learn to do that?”

And judging by the feeling of Crowley’s hips riding up against his, it’s very obvious how aroused they both are at this point. As if it wasn’t clear enough already. The feeling is quite unlike anything else he’s ever really experienced, and it makes his breath catch.

“I h- have been around for six thousand years,” he manages, peering down at Crowley with what he hopes is a reprimanding look. “I do know what a love bite is. Why, did I do it wrong-?”

“No,” he admits, sounding a bit exasperated, “It was perfect, obviously.”

“Well then, I don’t see what you have to complain about.”

And as the rain continues to thunder against the window, they kiss and Crowley finds the waistband of Aziraphale’s trousers, apparently no longer interested in wasting any more time. Aziraphale discovers that, as much as he’d like to, he can’t find any way of subtly whipping them off whilst maintaining their kiss, so he has to stand up and kick them away rather awkwardly. Crowley lies on the bed and watches him with dark eyes ringed in gold.

And then he notices the absurdly tight jeans that Crowley’s wearing, and Aziraphale hums in deep thought. Incredibly aware of the fact that he’s wearing only his underwear and being stared at hungrily by his best friend, but more distracted by what comes next.

“How on Earth are we meant to remove those,” he asks seriously. “How do you even get them on, Crowley?”

Crowley scoffs, unbuttoning them and lifting up his hips so he can shuffle them down. Then, he admits, “With some dexterity, and sometimes a miracle.”

“Right,” Aziraphale says, sounding more business-like than he feels. He kneels on the bed, takes the waistband of the jeans. “After three?”

“We- you don’t need to do an after three,” Crowley complains.

Aziraphale raises his brows at him in disagreement. He gives it a go, finds that with a good tug they don’t go much further than the top of his thighs.

“Well, what do you suggest now?” Aziraphale poses drily.

Crowley juts out his chin. “Yeah, alright, after three.”

“One.”

“Two.”

“Three-”

They have to put in a combined effort, but together they manage to overcome the trouser issue with some wriggling and tug-of-war. Surprisingly, the ankle area is the most troublesome, and there’s a short while where Aziraphale is convinced that Crowley’s going to be stuck within the shackles of his Topshop skinny jeans forever. Eventually, though, they’re cast aside, and Aziraphale looks down at him with a look that says there, are you happy that you chose to wear those today?

They both start laughing.

“Good Lord, Crowley!”

“I- listen, they were never that difficult to take off when I had my powers,” he tries.

“That absolutely makes no difference, they’re absurd.”

Aziraphale bends back down to kiss him, and Crowley pulls him in roughly, earning a surprised umf! from Aziraphale, who’s very pleased to be kissing him again and experiencing just how gentle Crowley can be, even when he’s enthusiastically grinding up against him. Which is- well, Aziraphale can understand why humans are so terrible at describing it. It sends an aching, unfamiliar heat shooting through him. It makes him sigh strangely and makes his muscles weak. A delicious, satisfying feeling that he wants to chase after. Like he’s working his way through an ice-cream sundae and he doesn’t quite know what’s going to be at the bottom- but he’s fairly certain he’ll like it.

And when all the clothes are gone- the rest of it had been far, far simpler to remove compared to the trousers- Aziraphale thinks that there’s a lot more to this ice-cream sundae than he’d imagined. Because Crowley is sighing and pulling him close with his fingers clawing lightly his back, he can feel the warmth of the inside of his thighs against his hips, bodies pressed together, closer, closer- heavy breathes- the taste of sweat on Crowley’s neck- and when Aziraphale instinctively figures out where to move, where to touch, where to kiss, it’s seems so blindingly obvious how well they match. So incredibly natural that it takes his breath away.

And, for once in his life, he doesn’t even wonder whether it’s right or wrong. The answer is clear.

No, this is no ordinary ice-cream bloody sundae.

Crowley,” he croons. “You’re amazing-”

“D-don’t,” he warns him. “Don’t- I can’t-”

He feels Crowley’s nails dig in just a little harder.

He hears him breathing beside his ear.

He looks down at him and sees him staring back up, falling apart, all the remaining demonic and angelic pieces left of Crowley falling away till it’s just him. A wonderfully characteristic look of set determination fixed on his face.

“I’m gonna make you feel so good, angel,” he growls.

And Aziraphale finds himself being quite deftly flipped onto his back. That is how he ends up staring up at the ceiling, Crowley hovering over him with red hair sticking to his sweaty face and mouth hanging open. A wonderfully wicked glint in his eye that makes Aziraphale swallow.

And a part of him had considered whether Crowley would be put off by his own lack of experience in this area. But something about all of this tells him that Crowley may just be a fan of an ingénue angel.

Then, something seems to occur to Crowley, and he pouts to himself. “Ah, fuck,” he complains.

“What is it,” Aziraphale asks, sounding more than a little flustered. He’s not sure if he’ll be able to hear his answer with the way that he’s so totally distracted by Crowley straddling him. He rests his hands on his thighs.

“I didn’t bring any lube.”

Aziraphale nods shakily. No miracles to help them now. He pats Crowley comfortingly on the leg. “Alright, well. Um. What… what should we…?” He doesn’t know how to phrase it. He sighs in frustration. “You’re going to have to be awfully patient with me, Crowley, I don’t really know what I’m doing. If there’s something else you have in mind, then by all means give it a go. I’m trusting you to take the lead.”

Crowley considers this for a moment, and then appears to be struck by an excellent idea. He dives down for a kiss, and Aziraphale gladly accepts it- he doesn’t think he’ll get used to the feeling, even in a thousand years’ time- and then he starts kissing down Aziraphale’s chest, down his stomach, moving backwards till he’s kneeling between his legs and Aziraphale feels that jolt of self-consciousness again- even if he’s grinning through it, light-headed and giddy. And just as he reaches his navel, Crowley says, lowly, “You need to stop saying that.”

The feeling of his breath against his skin makes him shiver unexpectedly. Aziraphale squeezes his eyes shut, and says- more like a squeak, really- “Saying what?”

“That I’m being patient,” Crowley mutters, just as his hand begins to trace along the inside of his thigh. Aziraphale’s breath hitches in surprise. “You’re worth waiting for.”

“Oh,” Aziraphale whispers.

Crowley rests his chin on his stomach. “And even if you said you never wanted to do anything like this for the rest of our lives, it wouldn’t matter to me.”

His heart swoops. Aziraphale feels the hand pause its work against his thigh, and Aziraphale lets out a very measured exhale.

“For the time being, my dear,” he says, “You can assume that I want to. You’ll just need to- I may need some guidance, is all.”

Crowley watches him with a heavy gaze. Aziraphale runs his fingers through his hair, and Crowley hums.

“You’re so good to me,” Aziraphale praises.

And somehow, that seems to remind Crowley of what he was doing in the first place, because that glint returns to his eye and the kisses down his stomach start up again. Aziraphale hiccupping in surprise at the completely surreal feeling of Crowley running his tongue over his skin, over parts of his anatomy that he’d only really been bothered to conjure a few decades ago when he was bored one Saturday night. And-

Oh.” There’s that word again. A tone of surprise underlining it that makes him sound more like he’s found the pen that he’d lost a few months ago, rather than conveying what he’s really thinking, which goes more along the lines of:

Good God that feels good-

He stares at the ceiling in a sort of awe- mind trying to catch up with the sensations as Crowley holds tight onto his thighs wraps his lips around him and does some pretty remarkable things with his tongue that Aziraphale reckons is probably only possible if you’re a demonic serpent. It draws the most ridiculous noises out of him that he’d never imagined himself making, pulls breathes out of his chest like he’s convulsing.

“Crowley,” he keens, “Crowley-”

And Crowley makes a satisfied hum in response, mouth otherwise occupied but sounding pleased with the work that he’s doing. And all Aziraphale can do is squeeze his eyes shut and marvel at the tumult of feelings that washes over him. Distantly, the disbelief that this is actually happening- more presently, the heat that’s making his skin tingle and his cheeks hot the feeling in his stomach that’s like a coil tightening.

Ah- Crowley, I-”

And there’s an inflection to his words that almost makes him sound like he’s asking a question, because he’s bewildered and starstruck- he’s seeing stars, at least- and does Crowley know what he’s doing to him-?

The feeling takes over his body. A rush of heat coursing through him, a shiver down his spine.

His wings suddenly unfurl out of nowhere, and he’s distantly aware of the bedside lamp being knocked off and the light bulb smashing, he’s vaguely aware of the room suddenly brightening and the rain stopping, only just about notices that he’s scattered feathers all over the place, because in that moment, all he can sense is Crowley powering on, the incredible pleasure rocketing through him, and the words the pop suddenly into his mouth:

“Holy fuck-!

The crest of whatever wave he’s riding breaks and crashes, he feels his body slump against the bed. He feels the sudden dizziness take over and a hot shiver over his skin. He hears himself desperately trying to find his breath again, staring wide-eyed at the ceiling and bedsheets trapped in his clenched fists. His fingers let go and his eyes fall shut.

Even from behind his eyelids, he can see that the room is suddenly sunny, through the crack in the curtain. What bizarre weather they’re having today.

He senses Crowley crawling up his body, placing a gentle kiss on his cheek. And he can sense him looking down at him, silently watching.

“That was,” Aziraphale says hoarsely. He clears his throat. Then he opens his eyes and with a frown, says in sudden realisation, “Oh! That was a blow job.

Crowley snorts. “Yep. You know, those weren’t the words I was expecting to hear come out of your mouth.”

“Hmm. Well, I can see what the fuss is about.”

Crowley says nothing, merely leans beside him on his elbow, head tilted as he peers down with dark eyes and red lips. Hair pouring in front of his face. Aziraphale blinks, thinks he’s seeing things, before realising- yes, that really is one of his feather’s stuck in Crowley’s hair. He leans over to carefully pick it out with an apologetic wince.

“Oh dear,” Aziraphale remarks sheepishly.

Crowley, on the other hand, seems delighted, looking between Aziraphale and the feather with a smug grin. And then Crowley looks down at the bed, where he’s very carefully positioned himself so he isn’t leaning on Aziraphale’s wing, and begins stroking a hand through the feathers.

His eyes flutter shut. “Oh. That’s nice, too.”

“Mmm,” Crowley agrees.

He opens his eyes again, purely because he doesn’t want to loose sight of this moment. Crowley watching him silently and running his fingers through his feathers.

“You do look after me, don’t you,” Aziraphale says quietly.

A crease appears in Crowley’s brow, an almost pained look. Aziraphale can hear him swallow from here. “I do my best,” Crowley whispers.

And it breaks Aziraphale’s heart. It breaks his heart to know that he’s been such a fool all this time not to see it, to not really understand. He’s been swept off his feet by Crowley’s gestures for decades, been dazzled by the way he looks at him and felt special to be chosen by him- but he’s only now seen what that all means. Too blinded by his own love for him to realise that it was returned. Too convinced by the impossibility of Crowley loving him to see that it was already happening, right in front of him.

Aziraphale takes a slow breath. He rests his hand against Crowley’s face and leans to kiss him. Crowley moans quietly against his lips. And he lets his hands trace his arms, his back, his waist and hips. Holds him and whispers to him in all the ways that he’s wanted to since the start, whether consciously or not.

Crowley pulls away. “Y- you don’t have to do thisssss,” he says, clamping his mouth shut in embarrassment at his serpentine stutter. “You know, just because I-”

Aziraphale looks at him. And then he sits up, kneeling and letting his wings splay out behind him. “Crowley,” he says firmly. “I think you need to get used to the fact that I might be just a little promiscuous. Though neither of us really saw that coming.”

Crowley barks out a surprised laugh. Purses his lips. “Yeah, alright,” he admits.

And he draws Crowley towards him, pulls him close with a comforting hand on his back, another through his hair, both of them wandering and covering all unmarked territory. Slowly. Reverently. Because Crowley may not be an angel anymore, but he deserves to be praised. He traces the bruise on Crowley’s neck with his finger in great interest. And Aziraphale listens to the remarkably gentle sighs that pour of Crowley’s mouth when he touches him, down his stomach and between his thighs and fingers in his hair.

“I love you, Crowley.”

Their foreheads meet, and Aziraphale watches as he unravels. Eyes shut and lips parted. And Aziraphale had learned enough from those bored Saturday nights exploring his anatomy to know what might work for Crowley. Judging by the satisfied groans, he’s going in the right direction.

“You’re so gorgeous, my love.”

He feels Crowley’s hands clinging onto him desperately. Aziraphale shelters them with his wings.

“You’re always so kind to me, I’ve always noticed- I’ve always noticed.”

“God- yes, just- I’ll do anything,” Crowley blurts, voice low and pleading. “Jussssst- just- whatever you want, I want it, too. Tell me how you want me, just ssss-hah-sssay the word.”

“Just as you are, darling,” he whispers. “Just as you are.”

Crowley whimpers. Rests his forehead against Aziraphale’s shoulder. And as he brings Crowley to the end of his climax, holding onto him assuredly through the demon’s sobbing cries, he continues to whisper that he loves him. He whispers that he loves him until they both fall asleep, the storm long past.

***

The bedside light on Crowley’s side isn’t broken, at least. Aziraphale reads in the dim light, trying to concentrate on the rather gripping fantasy series that he’d discovered on their BnB host’s shelves. But the sheets next to him begin to rustle, and a familiar red head pokes out from under the duvet. Crowley, it seems, has a habit of sleeping beneath all the covers like he’s hibernating.

“Morning,” Crowley says hoarsely.

Aziraphale turns to inspect the clock on the bedside table. “It’s actually only nine thirty in the evening.”

“Same difference.”

He continues to read, glasses perched on the end of his nose. He feels Crowley’s sharp chin poking into his stomach.

“I get the impression that you demand attention,” Aziraphale says distantly, eyes, scanning over the same passage for the second time.

Crowley doesn’t reply. He gently tickles Aziraphale’s sides until he’s trying very hard not to laugh.

“Stop it,” he reprimands seriously. “I’m reading.”

“Hmph,” Crowley says.

“If there’s one thing you should know about me, Anthony J. Crowley,” Aziraphale announces, “It’s that there is really nothing that can distract me from my book.”

Crowley makes another sulky noise and lies on his front, resting his chin against Aziraphale’s stomach. Aziraphale allows himself to stroke his hair, although the feeling is quite strange. Strange, in that it’s instinctive and completely natural. He decides to read the rest of the chapter, which is another, roughly, twenty pages, before putting his book on the bedside table and giving his demon all the attention he deserves. The moment he leans for his bookmark, Crowley perks up a little.

Aziraphale looks down at him and strokes his hair out of his face. “There, you have me now.”

And what a sight that is. His best friend of six thousand years gazing up at him so openly. “What did you think of it, in the end?” he asks.

“What did I think? Well- I don’t know, yet, I’m only on page seventy-six-”

“Not- not your book, for fuck’s sake, Aziraphale. I meant sex, what did you think of the sex.”

“Oh. It was…” he trails off, and lets himself ponder for a moment too long, just to drive Crowley mad. “Almost as good as the chocolate fondante from The Ritz.”

Crowley stares at him, gold eyes wide and a little bit disbelieving. “Almost?”

“Well, what do you expect, nothing’s as good as a chocolate fondante.”

“Fuck off.”

Aziraphale gives him a heavenly smile, and Crowley sneers at him, drumming his fingers against his sides.

“I very much enjoyed myself,” he ends up conceding, quite primly. Crowley looks back at him in interest. “I suppose, in a way, I’m feeling sort of proud of myself.”

Crowley’s brows raise. “In what way?”

“I’m not sure. I suppose because it feels a bit like I’ve- thrown caution to the wind,” he explains with a hand gesture for good measure. “Like I’m. Oh, I don’t know. Sticking it to the man.”

Crowley snorts, lips curling into a smile.

“Not that- obviously, not that that’s all it was to me. I mean, I- I hope it’s clear now that I’m in love with you and have been- well, probably since the beginning, if we’re honest, although I don’t know if I really realised for a while after that- that’s to say, that it isn’t just a rebellion thing for me- and, I feel you ought to know that I was trying to make those cupcakes for you, and the reason I was so upset was-”

“Shh. Shh,” Crowley holds up a hand to stop him. “I know. You can stop.”

Aziraphale nods, looks away bashfully. “Alright.”

Crowley shakes his head to himself, rests his cheek against Aziraphale’s stomach.

“Crowley.”

He raises his brows at him expectantly.

“I really do love you. An awful lot.” Aziraphale swallows through the sudden urge to cry. “More than, I think, any angel has loved anything, or anyone.”

Crowley lies there, still, looking like he’s in deep thought. Or perhaps, committing the scene to memory, as Aziraphale is. He responds by sitting up and kissing Aziraphale. Kissing until they forget where the one person ends and the other begins.

Chapter Text

There are more sides to love than Crowley could have imagined.

Falling for Aziraphale had not been instant, but it had been easy. Like a cosy day indoors, sitting in front of the television and distantly hearing the background noise of rain falling. You only consciously notice it the moment you look outside and see that it’s really chucking it down. A realisation; ah, it’s raining. Then continuing with what you were doing whilst it pours around you. It’s a simple fact, really. You think you probably should have predicted it would begin raining, just by taking a glance at the sky, but it hadn’t occurred to you to do much about it. Really, there’s nothing you can do about the weather. It’s inevitable. Something that merely exists, sometimes makes things a little inconvenient, and at its worst (or best) can change your view on life entirely.

In the years that they hadn’t seen each other- both of them preoccupied with whatever Heaven and Hell threw at them, both of them deluded by the idea still that they should follow orders- Crowley would merely get on with his life. He would sense that his feelings for Aziraphale could never fade, would ebb and flow in the same way the universe continued to shift around him. Mildly annoying background noise that he could live with. That he had to live with.

And then somehow all that had changed. No longer just a part of his existence, no longer something that was just happening to him. No longer a shrug, an acceptance: it is what it is. Now, love is a thing that’s shared, love is a thing that’s open and all encompassing and expansive, laid out in front of him in ways that Crowley doesn’t know quite what to do with. Now, love is returned.

Looking back, the remaining days spent in the Isle of Skye are hard for Crowley to grasp in his mind’s eye. It’s not any trouble with his memory, although six thousand years on Earth is a lot to contain in one brain. It’s more that it passes by in a haze; in a few decades time, he’s sure he’ll forget about the walks through the bracken, Aziraphale’s white trousers muddy. He’ll probably forget getting stuck in said mud and Aziraphale having to pull him out, leaving his shoes in the bog and being carried back to the cottage by a gallant angel. He’ll probably forget the Michelin star restaurant that they went to, forget what they ate and the look of joy on Aziraphale's face. In all likelihood, he’ll forget what they did on those days when they weren’t on the beach or sitting in front of a fire under blankets. And if there’s anything he’s bound to forget, it’ll certainly be the whisky tasting tour that they took, and the rather messy taxi ride home.

No- above all, it’s the feeling of those moments that he remembers. A feeling that’s even more difficult to describe than it is to remember exactly what was said or done. Something dizzy and heady and impossible to comprehend. Like looking up at the ceiling and not being able to see the sky beyond it, only knowing that it’s there.

Crowley didn’t know love could be like this. Something spoken out loud and understood by two people, something made verbal and physical and soul deep. He had never known that it could exist outside of himself, seen by Aziraphale and accepted and given back, like a conversation. Those last days in Skye are sealed in Crowley’s mind not with memories of trawling through the one charity shop on the island, trying on silly sunglasses; not by Crowley dropping his ice-cream on the floor and Aziraphale wordlessly giving him his; not by waking up in the middle of the night and finding Aziraphale watching; not by kisses in the dark, at a time of night that doesn’t feel real, that feels ephemeral. They’re remembered by the feeling. And that’s more than enough for him.

After all this time, after all the pretence, this cosmic dance of theirs has finally come to an end. Or, only just begun, depending on how one looks at it.

The sun is still bright in the sky at eight pm in the town of Portree, and the two of them sit on the pavement at the water’s edge, legs dangling and the distorted reflection of mountains in the rippling sea below. The horizon looms in the distance, hills huge and watching, like gods. In a way, they are; they’ve been here for almost as long as God herself has existed. She exists in them as She exists everywhere. Little houses with pastel painted faces run along the edge of the water and skiffs sway in the gentle current. The Bentley clicks and ticks behind them, cooling down after driving through the mountains. A young girl and her mother sit on the wall further along from them and begin crab catching, dropping a bucket into the water.

“D’you reckon you get dolphins around here,” Crowley asks, not really expecting a sensible answer but posing this nonetheless.

Aziraphale pouts in thought and looks out at the ocean. Even sitting on the edge of a wall like this, like bored teenagers, the angel sits upright and his ankles are crossed over one another. “I don’t know, really. I suppose there must be. Dolphins are awfully clever, aren’t they, I don’t see why they couldn’t have made it out here.”

“Got seals here,” he adds. They had, in fact, seen some seals just the other day. “No reason why there shouldn’t be dolphins, too. Unless dolphins and seals are…” he fumbles for the correct scientific word- it’s hard to keep up with how quickly these things advance. He sighs, and resigns to using: “Er...enemies.”

“I don’t think dolphins eat seals,” Aziraphale agrees with an uncertain frown.

“Seals might eat dolphins, though.”

“Really? But they’re so sweet and cuddly.”

“I have a feeling seals are bastards, but may be wrong.”

The two of them look out over the water and balance newspaper wrappers of fish and chips on their laps. Crowley has elected to leave some of the soggier chips and is covering the rest of them in ketchup. Aziraphale is more of a salt and vinegar fan, which makes his nose wrinkle. In Crowley’s book, the only thing that chips should be ruined by is ketchup, not vinegar. Using one of the typically useless little wooden forks from the chip shop, Aziraphale struggles to eat his dinner without dropping it all down his white shirt.

Crowley spots a disturbance in the water, grey skin rising from the surface.

“Oh- look, look! There! There- see?”

Aziraphale straightens like a meerkat and squints. “A dolphin?”

“No- no, a seal-”

“I don’t see anything.”

“Well, no, you’ve missed it now, 's'gone.”

Crowley swings his legs lazily above the water and finds a particularly crispy chip. A seagull lands beside him, flapping its wings and stepping brazenly over in their direction.

He glares at it. “Don’t you even fucking think about it, you little shit.”

Though his powers may be stripped, there’s still some threat to his words. The seagull thinks twice and beats its huge wings, flying off again. Crowley nods to himself, and continues to eat.

Aziraphale makes a satisfied sigh.

“Alright over there?” Crowley says with some amusement, looking at him over his sunglasses.

“I just really like chips,” Aziraphale says, brows pulled together and apparently suddenly overcome. A small, sea breeze catching wisps of his white hair.

“Chips are good,” he agrees with a quiet smile.

“This whole holiday,” Aziraphale presses on. “The food, the walks, the views, the peace and quiet. The company.” He turns and looks at Crowley with such a soft, sappy smile that it makes him snort. “Thank you, Crowley.”

And Crowley listens with great interest as Aziraphale recalls his favourite moments. So much affection and joy in his expression that Crowley finds himself gazing back openly, leaning towards him.

“It almost makes me want to stay forever,” Aziraphale concludes, pursing his lips unhappily as he looks at his empty wrapper of food.

Crowley swaps their newspaper wrappers, and Aziraphale gives him a bashful smile before finishing off Crowley’s chips. Crowley sits there and gazes. Gazes and gazes and gazes, because he can, God damn it, and it doesn’t matter anymore whether Aziraphale catches him doing it. Gazes at the breeze ruffling his hair, at the pink in his cheeks as the air begins to get cooler. Gazes at the bright look in his eyes, that he’s always felt looked more mischievous than angelic.

“Let’s stay, then,” Crowley says lightly. Almost a whisper. “Let’s stay. Nothing keeping us in London anymore.”

Aziraphale looks at him like he could be mad. A little apprehensive, as he usually is whenever Crowley gets one of his ideas. “I have my bookshop,” he says primly.

“You could set up a bookshop here.”

“There’d be barely any customers.”

“Isn’t that what you want, anyway? You’d basically get to keep all the books.”

“We wouldn’t make any money.”

“We’ve been making money and spending none of it for thousands of years. Dunno about you but my savings account’s looking alright.”

There’s the sound of people chattering in the pub behind them, music drifting out and then quieting when the door shuts again. Aziraphale looks at his lap uncertainly.

“Just an idea,” Crowley says with a small pout.

Aziraphale gives him a look. Crowley grins.

“It’s just,” Aziraphale says with a sigh. “I don’t know. I would need to think about it. It’s a big decision.”

And a big commitment, Crowley supplies in his mind. Because, even now, after all they’ve been through and overcome, he will never forget the words: You go too fast for me, Crowley.

“‘S no rush,” he ends up saying, patting Aziraphale comfortingly on the knee.

“What would you do?” he asks. “I can’t imagine you in welly boots and a Barbour coat herding cattle.”

Crowley shrugs, hums in mild disagreement. Aziraphale’s eyebrows shoot up.

“Really?” he demands.

Well, I don’t mind the idea,” Crowley admits. “Just. Nobody to get on your nerves. Nobody’s nerves that I have to get on, now that I’ve retired. Crops to grow. Properly, this time.” He shrugs again, and this time it’s a more self-conscious gesture, because he can feel Aziraphale staring in shock. “It doesn’t sound awful. Stop staring.”

“I’m sorry!” Aziraphale says with his hands in the air. “I just never imagined it.”

He kicks his heels against the stone wall, no doubt scuffing his boots. He stares in the opposite direction. “I was an angel once, too. I enjoyed all the angelic stuff as well. Cultivating things. Caring for things. I was a part of all that as well, you know, I've just picked up some bad habits since- stop it,” he growls defensively as Aziraphale beams at him.

The angel sighs, puts his chips aside and shuffles up closer to Crowley. He takes his hand. “My dear. If I’m staring at you like you hung the moon and stars, it’s because I’m remembering that you did. Though I didn’t know you then, I wish I had.”

It’s going to take an eternity for Crowley to get used to this. To compliments and openly loving words. Aziraphale says things like this all the time, now, and he knows full well just how flustered it makes him. It’s cruel, and they both love it.

“Shut up,” he grumbles. His chest hurting from the absurd strength with which his heart is beating- sudden and overwhelming like a Phil Collins drum solo.

Aziraphale takes Crowley’s chin in his hand and tilts him inwards for a kiss. Crowley complies; tries not to sigh drunkenly with the feeling.

The angel pulls away a little. “You taste like ketchup.”

“You taste like vinegar,” he replies.

“Good thing we’re both willing to put up with each other, eh?” Aziraphale jokes, and proceeds to link his arm with him.

They continue to sit in relative quiet, watching the seagulls swoop over the water and the sun slowly disappear behind the hills. And it’s as Aziraphale leans his head on his shoulder that he experiences a sudden realisation. For the first time in his long existence, he feels content. Nothing, right now, needs to change.

Beside him, Aziraphale takes a long, slow breath, as if waking up. Crowley moves to look down at him, but from this angle, he can’t see much other than a mess of blonde hair. He allows himself to kiss the top of Aziraphale’s head- he has to remind himself that he doesn’t need to resign himself to ignoring those sort of urges, now.

Aziraphale hums to himself.

“What you sighing for,” Crowley asks quietly.

“Ah, nothing,” Aziraphale replies innocently. “I was just wondering if we should get you a flat cap and dog whistle.”

Crowley, face still half buried in Aziraphale’s hair, plays his part and growls in annoyance. Aziraphale is most likely smiling smugly to himself.

“Farmer Anthony Crowley,” Aziraphale continues. “Farmer Crowley and his little farm of lambs. Farmer Crowley in his farmer outfit- but will you still wear leather trousers-?”

“I will push you off this wall if you keep going,” he warns.

Aziraphale laughs sweetly, and takes Crowley’s hand in his. Their fingers interlock. Crowley marvels at the sight, at how easily they seem to fit together. Sometimes, being with Aziraphale is like a game of Tetris. Satisfying and stressful in equal parts.

“How much things have changed,” Aziraphale suddenly muses.

Crowley winces as the sun dips almost fully behind the hills, the light fractured and bright. He considers the time that they have known each other. Since the day that Aziraphale had offered Crowley his wing for shelter in the rain.

“I don’t think much has changed at all,” Crowley says.

The mother and child who have been crab catching begin to pack away. The pub behind them roars with life, and the world beyond sits silently. The universe in invisible flux.

Aziraphale hums. “I suppose,” he says, “just enough has changed.”

“Just enough,” Crowley agrees.

The sun finally submerges itself and the sky becomes a pale purple. They view it together, the dawn of a new age. The genesis of a fresh world, post Armageddon. Heaven and Hell silent, for now. A world bathed in new light, taking its first breath before the Third Testament, with Aziraphale and Crowley at the centre of it. Angel and demon, hand in hand on a wall in Scotland, watching and waiting quietly for what comes next. Just as it was in the beginning.

And God saw that it was good.