Aziraphale sat down next to Crowley on the bench in a stealthy manner that had only been mastered by spies and ethereal beings. Perhaps he’d learned that from Crowley, or known how to do it all along. There was only the faintest rustle of invisible wings that no human could hear and the smell of expensive tea.
Not that either of them had to be stealthy any longer.
They were no longer running on fumes or living in a world that could end at any moment. They didn’t have to go to the very limits of their powers just to make it from moment to moment.
The park was quiet, but in a few moments the birds would wake up and start singing their love songs at top volume.
Was it possible to miracle it so that birds would sing rock songs?
Better not try to do so in Aziraphale’s presence, though.
Crowley breathed in the fresh air and the scent of just-mowed grass, glad that the ground had not turned into molten lava and the sea had not risen alongside the Kraken. By now he should have been fighting angels. Instead he had been enjoying some cold coffee with ice and syrup in it from a nearby café.
The angel sat closer to Crowley than he had a week ago, even if it was just a little bit. After thousands of years, you noticed that sort of thing.
In the faint light, Aziraphale’s eyes looked ever so slightly off. All angels were terrifying, still glowing with Heaven’s light and liable to call lighting from a clear sky to smite you just as soon as they sensed your presence. Aziraphale had done just that and worse whenever another demon than Crowley had tried to approach him in any way over the years, resulting in a reputation downstairs where demons wondered how Crowley had managed to stay on Earth for so long.
He'd once seen Aziraphale shake a cocktail shaker at an approaching demon, who’d promptly gone back to Hell through the floor of the bar, shaking with fear at the mere thought of holy water. Then Crowley had proceeded to tempt Aziraphale by buying him the most expensive wine in the city, so it all worked out for everyone. Hell thought that the demon who’d tried to attack Aziraphale was bad at his job and Heaven was pleased that Aziraphale had gotten rid of a demon.
Crowley spread out on the bench, taking up as much space as he possibly could.
There was no stiff-backed primness in Aziraphale’s posture. Instead he was leaning back in his seat ever so slightly, sound in the knowledge that the bench would stay where it was for a long time. He’d been like that ever since Crowley had shown up at the bookshop with a small plant, looking up from re-cataloguing all his books. Crowley had expected him to be his fidgety self, but it was as if some kind of calm had settled in Aziraphale’s being after the whole thing with the world ending hadn’t worked out. Or maybe it was the fact that their superiors were now utterly terrified of them after they had failed to die during their respective destructions. His eyes were even bluer than they had been that day where they’d stood on the wall around the garden when Aziraphale had admitted to lying to God herself about losing his flaming sword.
“I see that you’re wearing white again,” Crowley said, nodding at the crisp shirt that was older than any human still alive. It was half-hidden beneath a soft-looking waistcoat. “Rubbing their noses in a bit, are we?”
The smile on Aziraphale’s face was decidedly wicked. It was the smile of an angel who’d once flirted so outrageously with Victor Hugo to the point where Crowley had to drag him away so that things would not get out of hand. And then there had been that dalliance with Arthur Conan Doyle-
Crowley looked down on his own outfit, deliberately chosen to be the sort of outfit of a person you’d shag in the car after a concert, not bring home to your mother and mumble about the bite marks afterwards.
“Says the demon with the apple-scented cologne,” said Aziraphale.
“That’s a new waistcoat, too,” Crowley said, shrugging. “It’s a proper dark green, that is. Thought there was some kind of a law that angels had to wear those light colors.”
He’d never seen Aziraphale wear anything darker than caramel or light blue if he had a choice. Certainly nothing close to this. Other angels wore variations of cream and grey office wear. Crowley glanced at the solid gold pocket watch that Aziraphale had no practical need to wear.
Aziraphale, who changed so very slowly, who took centuries to come to terms with certain realities and was only now humming alongside Queen songs, had embroidered leaves on his waistcoat with fancy gold thread.
When Crowley had visited the bookshop a few days ago, marveling at the lack of dust and running his fingers across the spines of children’s books and volumes upon volumes of love poems that had not been there before, he’d found Aziraphale looking flustered while re-shelving Milton, who had, if Crowley remembered correctly, some interesting things to say about beings like them melding essences. It was not as if he hadn’t spent some time in the bookshop before, but it hadn’t been like this, wandering around and looking at original volumes and manuscripts and feeling the faded carpet underneath his feet. Usually he’d just sat down in the back with the angel and a few very fine bottles of wine, not poking around while the angel made them cocoa.
“I don’t think the dress code should be that strict,” Aziraphale said, brushing invisible lint off his waistcoat. “And besides, our office is quite different from those above or below us.”
“It’s not like they dare to ask us to show up at headquarters again,” Crowley said, thinking of the utter terror on the angels’ faces.
“Right,” Aziraphale said with another one of those smiles as he patted the bench. “Let’s stay here for a while.”
“I thought we were going out for breakfast?” Crowley asked. “I found this place that serves these orange juice-champagne drinks called mimosas and the kind of crêpes that you haven’t eaten since-“
He looked down to see that Aziraphale was holding out his hand.
Not like he was asking for a handshake, but as if he wanted to just-
“Oh,” Crowley babbled. He’d spent thousands of years actively courting this angel and now he couldn’t even think of something witty to say. Instead he took Aziraphale’s hand, which was impossibly soft and had nails that were perfectly manicured and shiny. Crowley had painted his own nails with some leftover red nail polish he’d found in a drawer in his bathroom. “This is very nice.”
“Yes,” Aziraphale said, his thumb stroking Crowley’s hand.
Crowley nodded, pretty sure that his heart was malfunctioning because it was beating so fast. He darted a glance at Aziraphale’s new waistcoat, which was clearly to blame for all of this new forwardness. It must have been tailored, knowing that Aziraphale liked to go to a barber and tailor and shoemaker to appear more human instead of just making clothes appear. As such, it was a perfect fit, not constricting Aziraphale’s soft middle or loose in odd places. Crowley began planning to inspect the waistcoat further on later to check if it had any other properties that made Aziraphale react in such a way.
Not that he’d ever seen Aziraphale undressed. Perhaps he could persuade him to stay over at his place for the night? And even then, Aziraphale was the sort of person who’d put on one of those Victorian nightdresses that covered you from head to toe.
Well, that would be a sight he’d like to see.
There was only one bed in his apartment, even if it was huge and soft and covered in expensive linen and heaped with duvets and pillows. He’d teach Aziraphale how to sleep properly, now that nobody was going to wake them up in a rude manner because they thought it was time for the world to end.
And it would give him a chance to inspect the waistcoat and get in some good snuggle time, if he was lucky. Aziraphale was soft and probably amazing at snuggling. He’d sink down into the mattress and put an arm around Crowley’s shoulders until they were both warm and breathing softly.
Right. That was a good plan. Crowley was good at plans.
Besides, he’d be treated to Aziraphale making decadent sounds later on while eating crêpes and sipping tea-
“Why are you blushing like that, Crowley?” Aziraphale was asking.
“I’m-“ Crowley began, thinking of cold blooded snakes and valiantly ignoring the fact that his face probably matched his hair. “I’m enjoying life.”
“So am I,” Aziraphale said and squeezed Crowley’s hand, clearly pleased with this answer. “This sunrise is very beautiful.”
They did not let go of each other for a long time.
It was not as if he’d never been inside Crowley’s flat before. He’d usually just lingered in the entryway while Crowley got whatever he needed to get. A bottle of wine. A jacket. That mug with the angel wings he’d given to Aziraphale because he’d seen it in a shop window and been reminded of him.
It had a proper kitchen, all gleaming chrome and dark cabinets, with a basket full of apples hanging from the ceiling. It wasn’t like Aziraphale’s little kitchenette, where he made his cocoa and tea and kept the little cakes and biscuits he liked to eat as a treat. Sometimes he toasted muffins in there, because he could.
It didn’t look lived in, even if there was quite a bit of statues and sturdy looking furniture around. But Aziraphale had seen how cluttered Hell was. No wonder that the demon liked to have some space to just walk around.
His hands swept over shelves holding records and CDs and a tiny bowl of sea shells. They must have gotten drunk here, once or twice. But he’d never truly had a tour of the place. These objects were loved but not on the level that Crowley loved the Bentley. Not the way that Aziraphale himself cherished his bookshop. It was more that they were souvenirs of the world outside, piled in here to remind Crowley what the world was like.
He could hear Crowley showering, dropping bottles on the floor or on his feet while trying to wash. There was quite a lot of cursing involved. Aziraphale had wondered if he should have asked Crowley if he could take a bath, having heard the demon brag about his bathtub for over three decades now and how one could add bubbles to the water and have candles lit all around the bathroom for a soothing atmosphere. Crowley had even hinted at the possibility of having a kind of bath-table, where he could put down his cocktail and books.
And yet there was something that told him that would he take that bath, he’d find himself looking through the cabinets for something to wear after toweling off. And he would not be able to find anything in his size that was not black underwear of the sort that came with sheer stockings. And possibly heels.
Maybe one day he’d try it out.
Before he knew it, Aziraphale had wandered into the room where the plants lived. He hummed as he breathed in their scent and complimented each one. They did not shake. Instead they leaned towards him, reaching out with leaves and flowers.
“Look at how diligent you are.” he said to a Japanese peace lily,” “Growing all those flowers and making the world a better place with all that beauty.”
“And you are very tall and striking,” he told an especially large aloe vera plant.
He continued making small pleased sounds at the plants, fingers brushing their stems or pots sometimes, until he came to a tiny purple plant. He lifted it up to inspect it further, since it was clearly new.
“Don’t worry,” he said. “Crowley will take good care of you.”
“Will I?” Crowley asked from the doorway, still dripping from the shower. His hand was covering his mouth, as if he was afraid that Aziraphale would see something he didn’t want to reveal. But he wasn’t wearing his dark glasses, so Aziraphale could see the swirl of emotions in his eyes anyway. Crowley fidgeted with his luxurious black robe, pulling it closer around his skinny frame. He’d draped a towel over his shoulders, clearly trying to look like something out of an advertisement for one of those fancy spas. Then he sighed. “Yes, alright then. Fine.”
“You said you wanted to ask me to try something out?” Aziraphale asked, trying to look like he was a spontaneous person instead of someone who still hid his secret snuff box in the same pocket of his jacket and had done so for over a century.
“I thought we could go to sleep,” Crowley said. “Or that at least I could-“
“What?” Aziraphale asked. The old urge to remind himself that he was an angel and should behave as such, not enjoying spending time with the Enemy surfaced, perhaps just out of sheer ingrained habit. But all that was over now. He’d stood on the concrete beside Crowley with a flaming sword in his hand, ready to fight the Devil himself if that had been what it took to avert the Apocalypse.
They were their own side.
They’d made that clear enough to absolutely everyone that was listening.
Technically, angels and demons did not need to sleep. Just as they did not need to breathe or take up a certain amount of space or eat or drink. Aziraphale pulled at his waistcoat a little bit, adjusting it. He’d always been soft, a fact that Gabriel insisted on bringing up as often as possible to point out how he should be built for battle.
But Aziraphale had spent his life moving among humans and one demon, blending in and wandering all over while helping out as much as possible. He’d surrounded himself with books, held onto things that he loved and tried to make the world a better place.
His body had adjusted to that.
And Crowley, who was still shaky from this whole business with everything not ending, had grown used to being able to rest. Sleeping was an activity that made you extremely vulnerable, not being able to fight back or talk much. So, it was understandable that Crowley would want company while doing it.
“I’ve got a bed and everything,” Crowley was saying, opening a door to what appeared to be his bedroom. The bed was the sort built to last centuries. “Lots of room and pillows and-“
“You want me stand guard?” Aziraphale asked gesturing at a chair in the corner. Crowley had mentioned his nightmares many times over the years, trying to sound dismissive and failing every time. “Because I can certainly-“
“Nah,” Crowley said, blinking as he wasn’t used to getting direct questions like this. “I know that you think sleeping is a waste of time. But I was thinking that you could stay for a bit-“
Aziraphale looked at the bed. He’d read enough novels that had people in bed to know how this went. He’d even seen a few television episodes.
“Not dressed like this,” Aziraphale decided. His suit was replaced by a floor length night nightgown in white. It wasn’t that different from wearing his angelic robes, but these had golden swirls embroidered around the neckline.
He sat down on the bed, aware that Crowley was looking at him with barely restrained delight.
It was an absurdly comfortable bed. Surely human beds were not as good as this one. Crowley draped his robe over the back of the chair, glancing at Aziraphale’s suit which was now on a hanger by the door.
Aziraphale adjusted the duvet as Crowley sat down on the bed beside him, arranging pillows with the intense concentration of a very well-paid interior designer. Then Aziraphale lay down, letting his body sink into the mattress and his head rest on the pillow.
The sheets were cool and the duvet was the light kind that only floated above your form to keep the temperature consistent. The curtains closed by themselves and the light inside dimmed considerably. Aziraphale felt a deep calm settle over him at the sight of Crowley placing his dark glasses on the nightstand.
“Ah,” he managed.
“Quite something, isn’t it?” Crowley asked, flopping down beside him and immediately stealing half the duvet.
“Yes, yes,” Aziraphale said as Crowley grinned at him. “Temptation accomplished.”
In the silence that followed, Crowley edged closer to Aziraphale, like a snake would seek out a heat source. Their sides were already touching, despite the fact that they had the space to sleep like starfish.
Crowley’s eyes were closed, his limbs floppy. His hair was already a total mess.
Then Aziraphale decided that it was time to raise the stakes up even further against whatever idiotic rules his side and the other one had probably made about each other. He’d always tried to downplay just how ruthless his superiors were to Crowley, some part of him insisting that they were angels too and that they were after all on the Good Side. And then Crowley had seen exactly what they were like if pushed too far.
Aziraphale had always thought that Hell was not just a place, but the absence of God’s light. Having once been an angel, having your heavenly name and essence ripped away from you and leaving emptiness and pain there instead. That all demons carried a piece of Hell within them, the same that all angels carried a shard of Heaven.
Aziraphale looked up at the ceiling and beyond.
All around them were houses and roads and people living their lives.
Above then were blue skies and even further there was starlight.
“What are you going to do about it, then?” he asked as Crowley went rigid beside him, eyes wide as saucers.
There was only silence.
“Good,” Aziraphale said.
He pulled Crowley closer, ever so slowly to give him plenty of time to resist or decide that he wanted to sleep on this side of the bed thank you very much.
But Crowley just wrapped a hand around Aziraphale’s middle and then hooked a leg over his thigh in a manner that was less possessive and more reminiscent of a snake wrapping itself around a tree.
In the morning, there would be tea and coffee and those bagels from the bakery on the corner. If he knew Crowley, there would also be a spread of cheeses and jams and sliced up fruit. But that was for later, when they’d gotten some proper rest.