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Tornadoes in England

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1.

They sorted it out between them on the bus, the whole prophecy thing. Seemed a bit of a gamble but if they were wrong, what did they have to lose? A few hours or days living each other’s lives. And if they were right, well. Aziraphale didn’t know what was on the other side of being right, but it might just be the world, and he’d finally come around to the fact that he was willing to risk everything for that.

Yes, all right, the world had already been saved tonight; now he would rather like to enjoy living in it, if he could.

Next to him, the thing that made the world half so interesting shifted restlessly, shoulders and elbows nudging as he rearranged the angle of his sprawl, and his hand came down almost nonchalantly on top of Aziraphale’s. Almost, but not quite. Aziraphale couldn’t help glancing up in surprise, though really, it shouldn’t be all that surprising. Still, it was not like Crowley to choose physical displays over words, at least when not actively having a fit of temper, which he didn’t seem to be having just at this moment. He was, in fact, watching Aziraphale in turn, face pale and grimy in the bus’s harsh lighting, nearly but not quite expressionless; he never was very good at not feeling. Really, to anyone who actually knew Crowley (which, come to think of it, was possibly just Aziraphale) he was quite plainly anxious, and nervous, and despairingly hopeful, and in fact, Aziraphale was quite sure that the only reason he wasn’t currently vibrating out of his seat with all of those feelings was the sheer weight of exhaustion pressing down on him.

And because he was also exhausted, and didn’t have the energy to resist this final onslaught of Crowley’s vulnerability, Aziraphale carefully looked away before relaxing his hand and turning it palm up beneath Crowley’s.

Some minutes later, Crowley laced their fingers together.

***

“So, make yourself at home,” Crowley said, gesturing indistinctly around him as they entered the flat, his saunter now more of a stagger, words very slightly slurred. “Kitchen’s that way, if you wanna make cocoa. Or get sloshed.”

“What about you?” Aziraphale asked, concerned. He had rather thought they would do their little switch immediately, at the very least to get in some practice, but then again Crowley did look in very bad shape.

“‘M goin’ to bed,” he said, waving over his shoulder in the general direction of a doorway, before spinning around rather precariously and weaving his way over to it. “Don’t mollycoddle the plants while I’m out.”

“Plants? What plants?” he asked Crowley’s retreating back. Crowley disappeared momentarily into the darkened room, and when he came back out, pausing at the threshold, Aziraphale immediately assumed it was to answer his question. Crowley, however, simply stood there, looking strangely lost and a little bewildered. Then he took his sunglasses off.

“Aziraphale,” he said, and it was that same tone of voice he’d used when Aziraphale had found him after being discorporated. Soft, so very soft, and almost pleading. It… hurt.

“Yes?”

“Listen, I just…” He took a jerky step forward, but faltered, arms held helplessly at his sides, sunglasses dangling from his fingers. “I wanted to…” He gave Aziraphale a bleak, helpless look that for a moment made it hard to breathe.

“Crowley, tell me. Is something wrong?”

Crowley took a shuddering breath. “I just, I lost you,” he said. “And then you came back, but it was, we nearly died, and Adam, and I wanted to tell you, angel, but I didn’t get the chance, so I need you to know, now, before we... I just, I just love you. Quite a lot, actually.”

They stared at each other for a moment in… not in silence, but in the kind of hush that falls just before the conductor raises her arms, before the orchestra strikes up; a moment tense and flexing, like the bird on a ledge, weight tipping forward, no longer balanced but not yet in flight. Words crowded the back of Aziraphale’s throat like too many people in a doorway, straining to get through but going nowhere. And then Crowley swallowed, and gestured unsteadily.

“Going to go and pass out now,” he said. “Wake me when it’s time to, you know.”

Then he was gone, disappearing back through the doorway.

Aziraphale stood for some time in the same spot, staring unseeing at the frosted glass of the bedroom door, his insides feeling like a tornado had ripped through them.

You didn’t get tornadoes in England.

Except, today, you did.

Chapter Text

2.

 

It wasn’t as if he hadn’t known. Aziraphale often wondered, in fact, if he had realised the depth of Crowley’s feelings before Crowley had. Angels could sense love, after all, and it wasn’t supposed to be something that demons did. Oh, it was often said that demons loved pain, or loved sowing discord and the like, but that was more a lexicological quirk than the pure expression of the word. Demons liked pain a great deal, they didn’t show up to repeatedly rescue said pain from its own folly and a very inconvenient discorporation. And while it was true that Crowley, too, liked Aziraphale a great deal, it had, at some point, tipped over into love; so long ago that even Aziraphale wasn’t sure when it had happened, and strong enough to give up any chance of his own survival to stay and fight a hopeless battle simply because Aziraphale was there.

 

It was… well. Aziraphale hadn’t really had the time to give it the thought it deserved, what with the failed Apocalypse and all that, and frankly in the preceding hundreds (or even thousands? -- good gracious) of years he had purposely shied away from examining it at all closely. Crowley loved him; he’d allowed it to be as it was. But the enormity of it, really, was…. 

 

What did you call a feeling so big you couldn’t see the edges? 

 

Surely something so huge could only end up crushing you.

 

He’d been standing motionless, staring at Crowley’s bedroom door for some time, when he noticed a clock ticking somewhere in the flat, seeming to get louder and more obnoxious the more Aziraphale tried to tune it out. Infernal in nature, no doubt. He gave himself a good mental shaking and went to the kitchen to boil the kettle. He let the water heat up the non-miraculous way. There was a certain comfort to rituals, tea-making foremost among many, and it wasn’t like he was in a rush. Crowley would likely sleep until morning, at the very least, and so Aziraphale, who had never got the hang of it, was entirely alone with his thoughts until then.

 

Looking around the kitchen for such a thing as a mug, Aziraphale loosened the reins on his wandering mind again. Perhaps Crowley had only just realised the way he felt; perhaps that explained the urgency. Or perhaps he’d simply been pushed beyond endurance, and this was the fulcrum, hammered into a weak spot, around which he broke. Either way, he didn’t seem to have expected or even hoped for reciprocation from Aziraphale. He had merely wanted to give the words life between them, just in case… well that was the problem, wasn’t it? For them, the battle wasn’t over, not if Agnes were to be believed, and Aziraphale really thought she was. There was simply far too much at stake.

 

And Crowley, of course, had seen that, and decided it would be just the thing to raise them. How very… him.

 

“Bloody mugs, where are you?” Aziraphale muttered, turning in circles in the kitchen. Every single cabinet was empty, but perhaps he’d missed one; he certainly wasn’t sanguine just now, thoughts still gusting about at gale force nine. The timing really was quite dreadful. They had possibly the biggest challenge of their existence yet to come, and Crowley had gone and… had needed to…

 

Eyes straying upwards more from custom than prayer, Aziraphale sighed and miracled himself up a mug (china thin enough to be translucent, with a pretty blue hand-painted willow pattern that looked suspiciously like a snake’s scales and coiling body) and made the thrice-damned tea (Crowley's kitchen wasn't any better equipped with tea bags and milk than it was mugs, but the idea that any kitchen wouldn't contain such items was too far beyond Aziraphale's ability to conceive, and so those things, simply, were there). Bobbing the tea bag up and down while it mashed really was a form of meditation, and by the time he was done, he could feel his scattered thoughts slowly coming back together.

 

For a time thereafter, Aziraphale drifted about the flat cradling his cup of tea in both hands. Experiencing turmoil quietly was a force of habit by now, but distraction helped, and there was a sense of curiosity about the flat, which he had never visited before. He soon found the plants that Crowley had mentioned, wincing at the twang of fear in the air. Moving to the middle of the room, he looked about, taking in the lush foliage, the verdant smells of damp soil and growing things, and felt the pang of a 6,000 year old wound. 

 

Funny if I did the good thing and you did the bad one.  

 

Crowley’s temptation of Eve had caused Original Sin, but without it, free will would have been impossible -- the same free will Adam had needed to bring the Apocalypse to a screeching halt. And Aziraphale, who had always wanted to protect but never to fight, had given away his sword in an act of compassion, only to have it end up as the very symbol of War. Funny indeed. He was beginning to wonder if it wasn’t even ineffable.

 

What an odd, electric feeling, to be able to think such things, now. To be able to wonder, freely, if God had planned it this way all along -- Adam, the sword, the apple, even the rebellion that had led to the Fall. And he and Crowley, stationed among humans for so long -- had they somehow stumbled into their own version of free will? How strange, and terrible, and wondrous.

 

If only they could make it to the other side of whatever trials the prophecy indicated, perhaps they could explore what that meant .

 

Unsettled by the plants and the inside of his own head, Aziraphale moved on, sparing a preoccupied glance for some strange angelic statuary, and an eagle lectern that he had seen before somewhere but couldn’t quite place, only to come to a halt once more beside the rather ostentatiously grand writing desk. Just on this side of the threshold of a doorway lay a reeking puddle of clothing and demon remains, the sight and sense of which scraped down his spine like nails on a blackboard. Dear Lord, was that…? Yes, holy water. And, presumably, what was left of, of a demon. 

 

Not Crowley, not Crowley. He forced himself to reject the ridiculous fear. He knew Crowley was safe, fast asleep in his room just down the hall. That… that had been someone else. But still, it was hard to process. To kill another being of their kind (and if nothing else, the last day had confirmed for Aziraphale what he had secretly long suspected, that the difference between angels and demons was nothing but the word of God)... to end them completely…. Aziraphale looked around, and wondered what had happened here.

 

There was the tartan thermos on the desk, and what appeared to be a wig that seemed strangely familiar. Over there was what had to be Crowley's horribly modern phone recording machine, infernal thing. And that was right, they'd spoken very briefly just before the whole Heavenly incident. Crowley hadn't been able to talk. It must have had something to do with this little mise-en-scène.

 

It occurred to him to wonder, for the first time, exactly how his bookshop had come to be burned down, and why Crowley had known about it. There had obviously been some kind of altercation here -- had it spilled over somehow? Had Crowley come racing to him for help, only to find…?

 

It was a terrible thought. Crowley: alone. Crowley, who loved him.

 

Without conscious input, Aziraphale found himself standing before Crowley’s bedroom door once more. It was ajar. Some part of him had noticed that before, but not really considered it. Crowley had gone to sleep and left his bedroom door ajar, and perhaps it was an accident, or carelessness, or tiredness, but Crowley had been trying to invite him in for so long now that in fact it just seemed... normal.

 

And he couldn’t, he couldn’t , not with such a monumental hammer waiting to fall. Crowley never had stopped moving too fast for him. But, well, since he was here, there was no harm in performing a little angelic guardianship, even if it was for a demon.

Chapter Text

3.

 

Crowley’s room was dark. Of course it was: he’d closed the curtains. But it wasn’t so much the lack of light as the feel. It was dark walls and dark sheets and very little in the way of decoration; almost-cave-like and not-quite-sepulchral, but that wasn’t quite it. As Aziraphale stood a moment to let his eyes adjust, something caught his attention, right on the edge of his vision, and he looked up. The ceiling was covered in hundreds of tiny, glowing stars. Not real stars; not some little demonic miracle to make the ceiling all twinkly. No, they glowed a sort of yellow-green, quite faint, but translucent enough that you could see, on the other side, what looked like blobs of Blu-tack holding them in place. 

 

Impossible fondness spread through Aziraphale’s chest. He recalled young Warlock having something similar at some point in his childhood: small, plastic, glow-in-the-dark stars one could affix about one’s room. They were so at odds with the sparse, intentional decor in the rest of the flat, and yet, it was somehow easy to imagine Crowley, putting them up on a whim one bored afternoon, and just… leaving them. He would never admit it, but just like Aziraphale, he did sometimes get attached to odd little trinkets; there was a reason he’d been wearing the same scarf for the last decade.

 

And yet, as his eyes continued to adjust, Aziraphale could see that in fact the stars were not merely placed about hither and yon in haphazard decoration, but laid out in constellations, familiar to him even now, though he hadn’t seen some of them since before the industrial revolution. Maybe not so not-intentional after all, then. But… somehow painfully revealing.

 

Moving quietly, Aziraphale stepped closer and considered the figure on the bed. Crowley looked like he had fallen asleep where he fell: on top of the covers, on his back, one arm flung out, one leg dangling off the side of the mattress. His face and hands looked pale amid all that black, the V of skin visible at his throat terribly vulnerable. The room smelled faintly of burnt rubber and ash, the scent getting stronger as Aziraphale quietly approached the bed. There were streaks of smokey grime all up Crowley’s long neck and covering his cheeks and forehead. His clothes were more rumpled than Aziraphale had ever seen them, and covered in little singed patches. But of course: not just the fire, but the Bentley, too. 

 

Compassion moved within Aziraphale. He was an angel, it wasn’t unusual, but this particular feeling held a tenderness that felt (had always felt) dangerous. And yet (as it always did) it demanded to be acted upon.

 

Silently setting down his half-drunk tea on the bedside table, Aziraphale held out his hands until they hovered over Crowley’s body, and slowly swept them from feet to head. In their wake Crowley was left clean, sweet-smelling and dressed comfortably in some black silk pyjamas that had been folded neatly beneath the pillow. He didn’t so much as twitch.

 

Was he dreaming? Aziraphale gazed down at Crowley’s face. He’d heard the human body entered paralysis during the dream phase of sleep, presumably to stop it from doing anything stupid, like walking into a lion’s waiting mouth or falling into a camp fire. It seemed unpleasantly restrictive to him, but Crowley didn’t seem to mind it, if the frequency by which he did it was anything to go by. What might he be dreaming of?

 

Crowley’s face was very relaxed, like this. Aziraphale knelt on the thick, luxurious rug by the bedside, one elbow on the bedside table, and leant his cheek on his arm to continue his contemplation more closely. Crowley’s body, like his own, was not particularly old, nor particularly young, and yet, somehow, the act of sleeping smoothed something out, or perhaps brought something long-hidden to the surface, and it made Crowley look younger. Youthful, even, or maybe just youthfully defenseless. Aziraphale was reminded powerfully of that strange innocence that the demon had had, back in the Garden, everything so new and interesting to him, and how it had been lost somewhere along the way; maybe not lost, after all.

 

If only tonight really were the first of the rest of their lives, the things Aziraphale could do. His insides tugged. The possibilities were so vast, so plentiful, however, that there was no clear path for his imagination to take, and in fact for a being who had spent almost the whole history of the world trying to cover for himself (his doubt, his questions, his affections) by loudly denying the possibilities Crowley kept putting to him, just this simple act of open observation felt thrilling.

 

He had finally set aside his guilt the moment the Metatron had confirmed what Aziraphale had been refusing to hear for years, but the full import of all that it meant had yet to be considered. Would he doubt openly, now? Perhaps not. But he probably owed it to Crowley to let him see how he questioned. Aziraphale hadn’t seriously been able to put his complete trust in Heaven and his fellow angels in a long time, now, but in his need to avoid admitting that to himself, he had perhaps gone a little overboard, and it had left Crowley feeling frustrated, maybe even isolated. Thinking about it as he knelt here at Crowley’s bedside, thoroughly and contentedly absorbed in watching him sleep, he felt dreadful about it.

 

If there was one admission that came easily, even now with an uncertain fate still staring them down, it was that he cared about Crowley quite the most out of any other creature in Creation. He cared a great deal, and he had caused pain, and it hurt him now, in turn.

 

Did it feel different because Crowley had said that he loved him? Some words gained power, once spoken, and so Aziraphale wasn’t sure. He’d both already known it, and been completely blindsided by it, so that even thinking it now felt fresh and a little raw. Irresistible to probe at, nonetheless. He remembered their very first meeting on the walls of Eden, the way Crowley had smiled at him after the rain had passed. Not that bright, unselfconscious smile of greeting, but stranger still, with the softness of wonder, and tinged with pain. 

 

“Why are you so unthinkingly kind?” he’d murmured, and Aziraphale had busied himself with shaking the rain from his feathers and spluttered something undeservedly harsh about the nature of angels and demons (what he had believed to be the nature of angels and demons) and hadn’t understood his own feelings when that look -- that strange, adoring, marvelling look -- had melted away.

 

That was the root of it all, wasn’t it? That neither of them had been what the other had quite expected. That both of them had been what the other had needed. Crowley’s love meant standing at Aziraphale’s side after the Crucifixion for hours and days until the end, a tangible presence at his shoulder as something inside of Aziraphale crumbled away. It meant seeking Aziraphale out merely for the pleasure of his company, when his own angelic colleagues couldn’t muster more than brief, businesslike check-ins every few hundred years. It meant park benches and daring rescues and lunching out. It meant laughter, and arguments, and getting drunk together in the back of the bookshop, and all the time, that faint Mona Lisa smile of Crowley’s, a distant echo of the way he had once smiled, not so naive anymore but still hopelessly fond.

 

And, well, here was the thing: Crowley hadn’t considered Hell his side since they had begun their Arrangement over a thousand years ago, and possibly even before (it wasn’t like he’d ever seemed to fit in Down There). Aziraphale knew that. He’d noticed the watchful, protective way Crowley tended to circle him when they met (of course he had), and he’d noticed the way Crowley felt about him, and it had all added up to something quite terrifying. To let go that tether that linked him to… to what he was (what was an angel without Heaven?), to let go and fall so helplessly into our side and trust the other to catch him? It had felt very hard, back then. 

 

Now, our side was the only thing he had left. Did he have any regrets? No, finally, none at all. Satisfied, he smiled slightly, and let himself drink in the sight of Crowley before him, more familiar than any other being in the Universe: those dear features, that striking hair, that rare mind. He knew this face (this person) and found it beautiful, and the longer he looked the greater it spread in him, a warmth more fulfilling than any cup of tea, or even hot cocoa.

 

If only he could stay here forever, press pause on this moment, and take the time to really inhabit it. He was a slow-moving person, he knew that about himself. He found it hard to change too quickly, took his time to get to places. But when he got there, he was sure . He had spent so long resisting, and he still had to, for just a little longer, but the temptation to let it all go was so very great. O lente lente currite noctis equi! The stars move still, time runs, the clock will strike… How very well Marlowe had understood the unique dread the coming of the morning light could bring. The Devil will come… Yes, and the angels would, too.

 

And that feeling, that was so huge within Crowley that he hadn’t been able to help letting it spill out tonight -- Aziraphale had thought earlier that something that big could only end up crushing you, and he desperately did not want Crowley crushed.

 

Before, when he’d still been fooling himself that anyone in Heaven felt the same way he did about stopping Armageddon (that God Herself felt the same way) he had thought he’d been prepared to give Crowley up to save the world. He had thought he would be content in the knowledge that Crowley was safe, off in the stars, even if it was by himself, while Aziraphale did what he needed to do. How very wrong he had been. Faced with the punishments coming for them from their respective sides, losing Crowley was… impossible. This time, he was sure all the way down to his God-given soul, there was nothing in Existence that could make him let go. The good news was, he was absolutely certain they were stronger together than Aziraphale ever could have been by himself. Unstoppable, even.

Chapter Text

4.

 

Crowley awoke to the sound of a page turning. It was a comforting sound. Solid. Earthly. It made him think of Aziraphale; he’d just been dreaming of him, though it was slipping away already. Eyes still closed, clinging on to that safe cocoon of sleep for a little longer, Crowley rolled over onto his side and buried his face in the pillow. His body was aching, but it was the good kind of ache, the kind you got from sleeping deeply all night in one position. He’d really, really needed that nap.

 

He was just starting to drift again pleasantly, sinking back into a thought about coy smiles in the Oxfordshire sunshine, when the sound of a book being carefully but purposefully closed brought him back to the surface. Reluctantly, Crowley opened his eyes.

 

The sight that met him was so unfathomable that he spent several seconds struggling to make sense of it, and, in the end, was forced to break it down into chunks for individual consideration. One, Aziraphale was sitting nearby in a plush, comfy-looking armchair that Crowley didn’t recognise. Two, Crowley appeared to be in his own bed and not, for example, crammed onto the bookshop’s old sofa, meaning that this was his bedroom. Three, a book was resting in Aziraphale’s lap that Crowley was confident he didn’t own, and the angel was sipping from a steaming mug that Crowley was certain he had never seen before. Four, and by far the most unexpected, Crowley was wearing pyjamas when he had no memory of having got changed the night before. In fact, he distinctly remembered the decision not to get changed. It had gone something like: too fucking tired, deal with it later.

 

For a long moment Crowley stared confusedly at Aziraphale, trying to find the common thread between these four apparently threadless facts. Then, with a horrible swoop of self-conscious panic, his eyes slid to the single potted plant he kept on his bedside table, a particularly sickly and yet very beautiful African Violet. The plant had shrivelled up and tried to die when he’d given it the usual treatment, and so he’d been forced to bring it in here so the others wouldn’t get ideas about the more gentle approach he’d been forced into trying with it. 

 

After that, it was like a stereoscope of horror: click through to view in stunning three-dimensional splendour! The bloody stars on the bloody ceiling -- click -- the secret and very select but nonetheless unmistakable shelf of books -- click -- the weird snake art. Crowley’s eyes darted around and finally came to rest on Leonardo’s sketch for Tobias and the Angel, in which the angel looked rather more like Aziraphale than in the final piece. That was when it really hit him that Aziraphale was in his bedroom, where he kept all his things. All those things that weren’t stylish or minimalist enough for the rest of the flat. All those things that were… personal. Because no one, ever, came in this room except him. Ever.

 

It was… His sleepy brain struggled to come up with exactly what it was, but it left him more exposed than if he’d actually been naked. Then again, it was possible that had something to do with the whole having been undressed while asleep thing, and, oh yeah, now that he thought about it, what had been said the night before.

 

He scrambled to sit upright. Satan bless it. 

 

And because Aziraphale was just a little bit of a bastard, he obviously couldn’t give Crowley even the illusion of privacy to get his head together on waking. No, he had to be right bloody there, looking at him with a calm sort of focus, as if he’d been… but the idea that the angel could possibly have been watching him sleep was too skittery to hold on to.

 

It wasn’t that he minded Aziraphale being there, exactly (he certainly wasn’t bothered about the pyjamas, strange as it was to be on the receiving end of that kind of care). Crowley had been trying to invite him home with him in some way or another for several thousand years, and even though he’d only had this flat for a decade or two, the bed he was lying on had been the subject of enough fantasies that the thought of Aziraphale in his room wasn’t so out of place. It was just… the reality of it bore weight, and right now it was all on his chest.

 

“Uhhh,” he said, voice still cracked with sleep and uncertainty. “Good-- good morning.”

 

“Good morning.” Aziraphale’s expression was soft, and Aziraphale’s voice was warm, and Crowley fought the instinct to fumble blindly for his sunglasses only because he knew they weren’t within reach.

 

Day was creeping round the edges of the curtains, a pale glow flowing along the concrete walls and casting the room in light just bright enough to make hiding hard. Aziraphale’s beautiful, mutable eyes looked green in this light, clear and merry as a forest brook, as though he was the one who’d had a restful night’s sleep. 

 

“Oh dear, you don’t look quite awake. Shall I give you a moment?” Aziraphale asked, adding insult to injury.

 

With the light coming past him at that angle, his hair looked feathery white and quite breathtakingly, artlessly angelic. That was one of those things about Aziraphale, how utterly artless he was, even when he wasn’t. That sweetness that undercut even his snippiest of moods. Moments like this, Crowley could fall in love with him all over again; felt he could fall in love even without memory; and not just fall, but speak his love, with honesty and without fear, and be some flavour of noble about it.

 

Oh, but wait, he’d already done that, hadn’t he? That soft, careful secret he’d been holding in so hopelessly for so long had finally found a chink, and shone weakly through. It wasn’t how he had dreamed of doing it, not that he had ever had a plan, but fantasies, yes, plenty of those. And the look on Aziraphale’s face, the, the confusion, or… whatever it had been. The damning silence.

 

“Yeah, just…” he scrubbed his face, pushed back the hair that was flopping forward over his eyes. “Just give me a tick.”

 

I’m having a moment here, he didn’t say. It seemed gauche to keep hammering on the same point. He hadn't been able to stand waiting for a response last night, and he didn't think he could bear it now, either. Not that he was going to repeat himself, but Aziraphale was thorough, and not as oblivious as he liked to pretend, and certainly not unkind, so that the sense of anticipation was still taut between them, the bond of a question unanswered but not ignored.

 

Aziraphale loved everything, Crowley knew that. It wasn’t just that he was an angel, because not all angels were like that. Crowley knew that, too -- intimately. No, Aziraphale had chosen to love everything because that’s what he believed angels should do. He’d made that choice -- to be gentle, to show compassion -- at the beginning of time, and he had then, over millennia, quietly and determinedly fought to stay that way. And that dazzling goodness, that beautiful light, had never failed to draw Crowley to him. Although he, as a demon, couldn’t sense love, he could sense other things, and had noticed accordingly, over the years, that Aziraphale’s nervous, fleeting smiles and guilt-ridden glances had gradually dissipated. In their place had come an amiable rigidity in sticking to their assigned roles, which was friendlier, definitely, but no more demonstrative about what he might really be feeling. Fondness? Probably. At least some classification of love, as a living creature in the angel’s vicinity. But even Aziraphale didn’t love all things equally, not if the way he felt about crêpes was any indication, and Crowley’s clawing heart was desperate to be special.

 

“All right,” he sighed, relenting for the moment to the head-spinning unexpectedness of the situation. “I think I’m awake now.”

 

“Sleep well?” Aziraphale asked, that same slightly infuriating expression of good cheer in his eyes. It was making Crowley’s head hurt, a steady pounding at the temples. The little speck of hope that all the weight of his cynicism had crushed into something diamond-hard and light-faceted still begged an answer, and if that wasn’t forthcoming, then he’d rather the politely ignoring part begin. This, this effervescence was hard to understand how to take. 

 

“I, ahhh, wel-- yes?”

 

“Oh, good. Listen, I’ve been thinking.” Aziraphale leaned forward with a fluttery, excited gesture. The gold of the signet ring he wore on his little finger flashed where it caught the light. “We’re going to succeed.”

 

Crowley tried desperately to catch up. “Oh?”

 

“Yes! Our plan, it’s going to work.”

 

“Certainly hope so,” Crowley said, squinting at him to see if that helped. It didn’t.

 

“No, no, look. I’ve thought a lot about, well, everything. You slept all night, you know -- I’ve had plenty of time. There’s no other conclusion. We’re going to win this.” He looked terrifyingly cheerful.

 

“If you say so.”

 

“I do.” He beamed. “Cup of tea?”

 

“Yeah, I, thanks.” 

 

Aziraphale was bustling out of the room before Crowley had even finished speaking.

 

***

 

He got dressed. It seemed the thing to do. 

 

Standing in the harsh light of the obnoxiously over-sized en suite, Crowley took a moment to inspect his body in the mirror as he removed his pyjamas the traditional way for once. His skin was white as always, unmarred except for the scattering of ginger freckles across his shoulders, and he smelled good enough (was that lavender?) to not need to bother with a shower. Which was a shame, because he felt on a soul-deep level that brooding in a small cubicle under hot water was exactly what the situation warranted. The thought of the greasy streaks across his body, the last, sad remnants of his Bentley, simply being wished away was almost enough to brew up sufficient resentment to get him over the sheer transparent hell of having admitted his feelings, but in the end he couldn’t quite muster it.

 

He wanted to ask himself what the hell he’d been thinking, but it was pointless, because he already knew the answer. He’d lost Aziraphale, however briefly, and the pure existential terror and grief at having to face life (whatever little was left of it) without the single person in the entirety of everything who actually knew him, and might on occasion give a piss about him, had still been screaming echoes inside his heart. If they were going to face whatever it was they were going to face from their respective sides, he simply wasn’t prepared to go through all that again without Aziraphale knowing everything.

 

And in the end, some words spoke themselves. Helplessly. Ardently. 

 

He didn’t regret it, but he disliked intensely being this paper-thin and see-through, almost like a wound, but not quite like pain. Like something had been gouged out of him, and not put back quite right: that diamond spark of hopefulness throbbing sickly behind his ribs, caught in suspension as he waited for Aziraphale’s acknowledgement. He knew full well he could be waiting a long time.

 

“Get it together,” he hissed at his naked reflection. “You’re a mess. If you don’t get your head in the game you’re going to fuck this up royally.”

 

His skinny, too-angular self stared back, grimacing. A lock of hair flopped listlessly across his forehead. Making an aggravated noise, Crowley snapped his fingers and was instantly dressed, hair styled, but no matter how much he glowered at himself, the naked look on his face wouldn’t leave.

 

Right. Sunglasses.

 

***

 

Aziraphale was still bustling about in the kitchen when Crowley emerged, feeling no less discombobulated, but hopefully looking more stylish about it. The angel had somehow managed to dig up a whole tea service Crowley was quite sure he had never owned. A generously-sized teapot in a twee little knitted cosy was steaming gently as it steeped. 

 

“Ah, there you are,” Aziraphale said, glancing over his shoulder with a brief smile. “Tea’s ready, but there isn’t anything to eat, I’m afraid. Perhaps we can breakfast out? Though I have to admit I’m quite nervous enough to have lost my appetite. I know! Quite extraordinary. But it’s the good kind of nerves, I assure you. Adrenaline, I think they call it. It’s been quite some time since we’ve rode into battle, hasn’t it, unless you count yesterday of course. Though speaking of breakfast, perhaps we should perform our little swap before leaving. Wouldn’t want to get caught short, that’s for certain.”

 

Crowley stood by the island and simply watched him for several moments, letting the anxious prattle wrap around him like a blanket. Again, love struck him, a physical blow that made him reach out to ground himself discreetly on the counter top, but there was less awe this time, so very much more fondness, and something lightened a little so that he shifted his shoulders experimentally, as though Aziraphale’s mere presence could lighten his load.

 

In fact, it could. It always had.

 

For the first time, maybe, he was glad that he’d said something; could almost have happily said it again. But he was very much aware that he might not get another chance, and quite possibly past caring if he was zooming down the motorway while Aziraphale was still taking a gentle stroll and stopping to admire the daisies. Stumbling forward, made graceless by his self-consciousness and the last scraps of indecision, he came up behind Aziraphale and wrapped his arms around his waist.

 

“Oh,” Aziraphale said softly, stopping everything for a moment to stand still in Crowley’s embrace. Crowley held on embarrassingly tightly for an embarrassingly long amount of time, and while it couldn’t be said that Aziraphale melted into him, he certainly didn’t stiffen, or push him away, or really seem to object in any overt way.

 

Somewhere in the flat, a clock struck the hour, and Crowley reluctantly pulled himself away; straightened his sunglasses, turned his back. Aziraphale, polite now where he hadn’t been earlier, gave Crowley a moment to collect himself by reheating the tea with a little flourish.

 

“Well then,” Aziraphale said eventually, turning with the tray of tea things in hand and heading for the nearest chair. His eyes were alight, his manner still bubbling with that terrifyingly chipper determination that was the closest to zeal Crowley had ever seen in him. Could it be optimism? For the two of them. Because they were on their own side now. And Aziraphale had finally, finally embraced that. “How shall we do this?”

Chapter Text

5.

 

Outside the Ritz, as the afternoon was sliding into evening, Crowley stepped to the curb to hail a cab only to be stopped by a touch to his arm.

 

“Let’s walk,” Aziraphale said. “It’s a nice evening, and it’s not far.”

 

It took Crowley several attempts to spit out a simple, “Okay.” It wasn't that he objected in any way, only that, as Aziraphale had been talking, he'd let his hand slide down Crowley’s arm and was now holding his hand as though they did that kind of thing every day. 

 

He let himself be led across the road in an astonished, champagne-fuelled daze, and it was only as they were coming up on Berkley Square that Crowley realised they weren’t heading towards Soho.

 

“You don’t want to see the bookshop?” he asked, daring a glance at Aziraphale’s face. 

 

“Oh, well, your place is closer,” the angel said. The happy glow he’d been exuding all afternoon had taken on a pinker hue, and it was true, Crowley’s flat was closer, but only by a matter of minutes. “There’ll be plenty of time for that tomorrow,” he added, catching sight of Crowley’s expression. “I trust your assessment.”

 

It was a little bit like the bus again, that cat-and-mouse eye-contact, the foreign, yearned-for press of hand in hand. Except it was nothing like the bus, because instead of turning away when Crowley entwined their fingers like a challenge, Aziraphale continued to shoot him sparkling glances and happy smiles, each one landing like a tiny spear in Crowley’s heart.

 

The flat was about a fifteen minute walk on sober feet; somewhat longer on pleasantly tipsy feet that were reluctant for the day to end. It was late into the afternoon now, their meal having gone on and on, the champagne and Aziraphale's sheer giddy joyfulness doing the work of settling the last of the jittery, victory-fueled quivering in Crowley's stomach. A few minutes ago, when they’d finally gathered themselves up to leave, he had wanted to ask, to beg really, don’t let this be over yet, let’s just walk together, keep talking for a while (forever). He hadn’t, because… well. Wasn’t it a bit churlish not to just enjoy things as they were, after having fought so hard to maintain their status quo? Crowley had rocked the boat as hard as it could stand before it sank, confessing his feelings and probably overstepping Aziraphale’s physical boundaries to boot, and yet the angel still apparently wanted him near, even after all that. If Crowley was capable of learning anything from the last few days and years, it was not to test something to destruction; whatever Aziraphale gave him, Crowley would make it be enough.

 

But then Aziraphale took his hand and was leading him home, and he hadn’t had to ask; Aziraphale apparently wanted the same thing, and it was… just a little bit jarring, was all. To want something, and then to get it. Just like that.

 

“I’ve always liked baths,” Aziraphale was saying, a little mournfully. “I rather feel as though this experience has taken the shine off.”

 

“Don’t think I’ll be enjoying a campfire for a good long while,” Crowley agreed. "Then again, be interesting to find out how much damage a marshmallow toasted in hellfire would do if stuffed into an archangel's mouth."

 

Aziraphale tutted, but looked indulgently amused, and very pointedly did not chastise Crowley for saying such a thing. If he thought about that little piece of sedition-by-omission too hard (or, at all) Crowley's head would start to spin.

 

“Do you remember the Roman baths?” Aziraphale asked. “Now there was a people who appreciated a good soak.”

 

Jolted into sudden remembrance of the sheer amount of skin involved the one time they’d gone together, Crowley licked his lips.

 

“And a good spit-roast of their enemies,” he said weakly.

 

Aziraphale chuckled and squeezed his hand, and Crowley was flooded with the desire to ask him, what does this mean? Is there something else at the end of this, or is it simply the thing itself? Should I keep hoping, or should I learn to be content? This is more than I ever thought I’d get but I’m still waiting for you to say something. Please, say something. (I can’t ask you again).

 

“Do you think…” Aziraphale started wistfully. “Do you think we chose any of this?”

 

“What, you mean like they do?” Crowley waved his free hand at the hubbub of human life they were ambling through as they made their leisurely way down the pavement.

 

“Yes. Free will. I was wondering last night, while you were asleep. I was wondering, you know, if it’s something that can be learned.” He cast a sideways glance at Crowley. “If we might have picked it up, somehow.”

 

Crowley gave him an appraising look, not bothering to hide his delight. “You what?”

 

“Picked it up, you know. Rubbed off on us. That sort of thing.”

 

“Well,” he said, considering it. “It’s a nice thought.” Nicer than the thought that every move they’d made was preordained by Her, like they’d been batting around on that bench before the bus came.

 

“But? I think I’d rather you didn’t steal my line about how ineffable She is.”

 

“Uh, no ,” Crowley said, offended. “And there’s no but. It’s just a nice thought. I’m enjoying it.” And he was also markedly enjoying the fact that Aziraphale was the one who’d voiced it. He never would have, before.

 

I’m enjoying our afternoon,” Aziraphale said, and Crowley’s heart squeezed.

 

“Me, too, angel,” he said softly. And yeah, okay, the hand-holding was perfect, was more than enough, if it came with that look of open affection on Aziraphale’s face. Crowley was dizzy with it, confronted so openly by something that had been so painstakingly hidden away before. It sometimes felt like a delicate battle, like a dance, to make Aziraphale acknowledge him and any kind of softer feeling he might have. In recent years every lunch invitation accepted, every smile that didn’t end in Aziraphale denying him three times like Peter after the Last Supper, buoyed him up like a glorious victory. This sudden outpouring of… whatever it was… Crowley didn’t know how to trust it, but he was certainly not going to turn it away, either.

 

They walked on hand-in-hand through streets getting busier as the early evening drew people out of doors. A delicate tremor had started up in Crowley’s bones, like a piano string that continued to vibrate long after the hammer had struck. When they reached Crowley's building, Aziraphale led the way up the steps with the confidence of someone sure of his welcome, and Crowley’s heart squeezed again with painful want, a desperate wish for this to be his reality now, and a surge of trepidation that it somehow wouldn’t be permanent. 

 

He fumbled his door keys, hardly ever having used them before; had to let go of Aziraphale’s hand to retrieve them from the floor, and didn’t know how to take it again after.

 

Following Aziraphale into his flat, Crowley was hit by the same acute self-consciousness of the morning, when he’d awoken to Aziraphale in his bedroom. Last night he’d been so damn exhausted that he hadn’t given any thought to how Aziraphale, as comfortably cluttered and worn in as his bookshop, would fare in Crowley’s minimalist flat. Now as the angel walked unhurriedly down the hallway with his hands held thoughtfully behind his back, it suddenly seemed not so much stylishly sparse as unduly bare and lacking in comfort, like an overly-austere museum. He couldn't quite figure out what to do with his hands, and so he shoved them into his pockets and stood nervously in the middle of the kitchen as Aziraphale drifted into the living room and over to the floor-to-ceiling picture window, drawing back the blinds so he could stand and watch the sun setting over the city, radiating happiness. Crowley watched him, helpless with love.

 

“I think a sunset like this deserves another toast, don't you?” Aziraphale said, shooting Crowley a questioning look over his shoulder.

 

“White or red?” Crowley asked, hating the hoarseness of his voice. “Or do you want to keep going with the fizz?”

 

Aziraphale turned away from the window, his expression thoughtful. “Let’s meet in the middle,” he said. “Rosé seems appropriate, don’t you think?”

 

Crowley made a sound of agreement and thought really hard about the perfect vintage of Chateau D’Esclans, before going to retrieve a bottle from his now-full wine cabinet.

 

“Ah, thank you, my dear,” Aziraphale said, when Crowley handed him a glass. Their fingers brushed on the stem, and Aziraphale’s eyes flicked up to his, strangely shy, before Crowley let go just a moment too late to go unnoticed. 

 

What did it matter? It wasn’t like they hadn’t walked home holding hands. It wasn’t like Crowley hadn’t laid every single one of his cards on the table already. If he was still careening hopelessly down that motorway, Aziraphale was perfectly capable of telling him to slow down.

 

Dragged along perilously by such brittle bravado, Crowley stood close enough to feel the warmth rising from Aziraphale’s body, one shoulder slouched against the window pane, Aziraphale’s arm a scant, burning inch from his chest, and allowed himself to stare openly at Aziraphale’s profile as he lifted the wineglass to his lips and inhaled before taking a blissful-looking sip.

 

“Oh my, that’s good,” he said in a tone of voice that made Crowley’s mouth go dry. He glanced over as though seeking Crowley’s agreement, and only then seemed to notice their proximity. “You haven’t touched yours,” he complained, after a beat. His voice was unusually tight.

 

“Not in a rush,” Crowley said. He was still wearing his sunglasses. His fingers twitched with indecision about whether to remove them or leave them on. It would be nothing but bravery to let Aziraphale look him in the eye just now, and the strung-taut wire of him was still shivering. He took them off anyway, fingers stiff with nerves, but lost his courage at the last moment, squinting off into the pastel-orange sky rather than risking eye contact. “Glad you like it,” he said to the scenery. “Thought of you, when I tried it.”

 

“Oh, really?” Aziraphale said, soft pleasure audible in his voice. Crowley squinted harder.

 

“Yeah. It’s called Whispering Angel.”

 

Aziraphale laughed. “I’m not usually the whispering type.”

 

Crowley made a non-committal noise. He’d seen him in near-prayerful reverence over some precious new acquisition for the bookshop more than once, but that aside, it wasn’t like he was going to admit that anything that tasted good and had the word angel in its name put him in mind of one thing and one thing only.

 

Aziraphale took another sip, and Crowley had to look, then. Had to watch the touch of wineglass to lip, the fluttering closed of eyelids, the way his throat worked.

 

Catching Crowley in such devout observation, Aziraphale seemed to misinterpret, and frowned pointedly down at where Crowley's wineglass was dangling from his fingers.

 

“It really is very good. Won’t you take even a little taste?” There was something strange about his voice, but Crowley couldn’t make it out. Then, he startled at a warm touch to his cheek. Aziraphale was reaching out to him, was cupping his face in one sure palm. 

 

What? 

 

Just, what? 

 

His ears pounded like surf on a stony shore. And then Aziraphale was drawing him down, and he went confusedly, until Aziraphale’s breath brushed over his lips; until Aziraphale’s lips brushed his. 

 

The kiss was delicate, chaste, lingering, strange. Completely one-sided. Poor Aziraphale, Crowley thought hysterically, having to kiss a statue like that.

 

After a fleeting eternity of that, Aziraphale drew back with an uncertain smile and let his hand fall. “There,” he said. “You see? Quite delicious.”

 

It took a moment for him to catch up, but when he did, Crowley straightened, breaking out of his stupor in a burst of outrage. “The wine?” he hissed. “The bloody wine?” As if in emphasis, some of the wine from his glass went sloshing over the side, a spray of pink droplets landing in an arc around their feet.

 

Aziraphale had the good grace to look abashed. “Um, well-- You didn’t like it?”

 

Crowley stared. “Y-- n-- yes,” he croaked. 

 

“Yes, you didn’t like it?” Aziraphale asked, licking his lips as though he were nervous. “Or yes you did?”

 

Crowley’s mouth worked silently, struggling to from words, until he managed to force out, “Aziraphale, please. What are we talking about here?”

 

“Oh, ah, well, you see, you said something last night about-- about, well, and I thought--”

 

“You thought you’d use wine tasting as a way to tell me… what, exactly?”

 

“All right, I agree, that probably wasn’t the cleverest approach. I assure you, it sounded better in my head.”

 

“To tell me what, exactly? ” Crowley insisted.

 

Aziraphale swallowed and put his wineglass down on a nearby end table, before cleaning up the mess Crowley had made with a little gesture and taking his glass, too. “Listen,” he said. “Yesterday, all those things you said, I desperately wanted to do this then--”

 

“Then why didn’t you say something?” Crowley asked wretchedly. “Anything at all?”

 

“I didn’t want to leave you hanging, but you didn’t seem to care that we were still being watched.”

 

"Still being…! That’s complete… You bastard."

 

“I was trying to protect you!"

 

Protect me? What from?”

 

Aziraphale's expression turned surprisingly steely. “Yourself," he said.

 

Crowley, incredulous, couldn’t help the string of incoherent syllables his mouth was making, before finally settling on, “What?”

 

“Crowley, I know you," Aziraphale said, softening again. "We had no idea what we’d be facing and if something happened, something worse than what we ended up getting, I needed to know you would fight for your survival, not-- not die for mine.” 

 

The silence was agonising, crowded, the inverse-but-not-opposite of the silence after Crowley had said I love you; not the pent, held-breath silence of before, but the quaking, exhaled silence of just after. 

 

That Aziraphale knew him so well ached.

 

But--

 

“Did it never occur to you," Crowley said, voice quiet and clipped, "that having something to fight for might’ve… might’ve…” but he couldn’t finish, because Aziraphale looked devastated, just devastated, and Crowley didn’t have it in him to make it any worse.

 

“I’ve only ever tried to protect you, don’t you see?” Aziraphale said. “A world without you in it is beyond what I… beyond what I could stand.”

 

It was true, something that Crowley had known on an intrinsic level, the way Aziraphale worried over Hell finding out about them, his refusal to hand over the holy water, but still not something he'd realised

 

Not something he’d known was reciprocated.

 

And still, he needed to hear it.

 

“Why?” he asked. The word trembled in his mouth.

 

“Because my heart is so full of you sometimes I can barely breathe.”

 

Oh.

 

Well.

 

“Do angels really need to breathe?” Crowley murmured faintly. It was a question that would go unanswered as Aziraphale, impatient at last, put his hands on Crowley’s chest, and gently, firmly, pushed him backwards. Crowley took an unbalanced step back and thunked into the picture window behind him. “Wha-?”

 

But Aziraphale’s hands were working their way up from his chest to his neck and then tenderly, so tenderly, cradling his face.

 

“Crowley, dear one,” Aziraphale said softly, so close now that their noses were touching. “I love you more than I have words to express. Of course I do. Of course I do.” And then he kissed Crowley, gently, gently, and swept away the tears from his cheeks. 

 

That gouged lump in Crowley’s chest finally settled into place, glowing. Turned out it might’ve been his heart.

Chapter Text

6.

 

It was a curious thing, skin. Given that he’d had his for six thousand years now (give or take), Aziraphale didn’t even notice he was living in it half the time, until it hurt, or itched, or started sweating. Or those times it simply felt nice to be touched, like a good manicure, or a foot massage at the end of a hard day. But then there were those occasions, more than a handful but only ever around Crowley, when his skin heated and tightened across his body, tingles rising on his palms and fingers, hijacking him with the need to touch, to feel the pressure of the other’s skin against it. The sheer corporeal desperation of it was like trying to resist the urge to scratch an itch, or the pressure of a full bladder, except those were things Aziraphale could (and generally did) choose not to bother himself with; the way his skin sometimes sent the impulse through him to reach out to Crowley was like the way the moon pulled the sea, completely beyond his control. 

 

Giving in to that urge after six thousand years was… well, it was… incredible. 

 

Crowley’s skin was warm, his pulse a rapid beat under Aziraphale’s fingers resting on his neck. Heels of his hands on Crowley’s jaw, thumbs on his damp cheeks, Aziraphale could have stood here for a year or more, just letting himself touch and look without fear.

 

Crowley’s eyes, good lord, they were so beautiful, the yellow lustre of them, like daffodils in the bright spring sun. He so rarely got to see them that now it was hard to tear his eyes away.

 

And yet… and yet… that trembling, foolish, stunted kiss he had given Crowley a minute ago… poor as it had been, false as it had been, he desperately wanted another.

 

His throat felt thick with everything he’d been holding back, his voice a ragged whisper when he finally forced it out, and it hurt to wrench free, good god the pain, like cracking a rib to dislodge words that had become calcified and jagged after so many years, but for the look on Crowley’s face, it was so very worth it. 

 

“I love you more than I have words to express. Of course I do. Of course I do.”

 

Then he kissed him, the same gentle pressure as before, barely daring and just as terrified, but dying to take this final step all the same. Before, Crowley had frozen. This time, oh this time Crowley let out a breath, a soft puff of warm air from his nose as their lips touched, and all the small hairs on the back of Aziraphale’s neck stood on end, his scalp tingled, his eyes prickled hotly when Crowley’s lips stayed soft as an invitation.

 

Aziraphale had been pinned to a wall by Crowley. Not so many days ago, in fact. It had been a strange thing, partly provoked (Aziraphale could admit it now), but shocking too. Through the strange slowness of that moment, the velvet dryness of his throat and pounding in his chest, for just a fraction of a split second, Aziraphale had been absolutely certain that he wasn’t going to be able to stop himself from kissing Crowley senseless. Outside forces had intervened, that time. Here, now, it was Aziraphale who held Crowley fast, hands cupping his face instead of bunched in his lapels, less anger (or fear) and so very much more love, and this time, oh this time there was no one at all to stop them.

 

Aziraphale drew back the barest fraction, just for the pleasure of pressing another kiss to Crowley’s lips, and at Crowley’s soft gasp, slotted their mouths together a little less chastely. There was moisture here, like cutting past the soft pith of an orange to the sweet flesh inside, and Aziraphale chased it with his lips, the tip of his tongue, exploring the divine taste of him until Crowley drew away, though he didn’t go far either.

 

“Angel--” he murmured against Aziraphale’s mouth. His voice was scraped raw. “Angel, are you sure? If-- If you-- I couldn’t take it--”

 

As tenderly as he knew how, Aziraphale guided Crowley’s forehead down to rest against his own, hand sliding around to the nape of his neck. He’d taken so long to get here, and that couldn’t be helped (although maybe it had been one night too long, really, Crowley probably did have a right to be vexed about that). The thing was, until he’d known he was free, Aziraphale hadn’t been able to give himself over to this: he’d known, he knew, that once he did, once he let himself fall, it would be the lead balloon for him and he wouldn’t get up again. He didn’t want to get up again.

 

“I’m sure,” Aziraphale told him. “There was so much to fear, before, but I wouldn’t-- I promise you-- I’m sure.”

 

Crowley made a small broken sound that might have been a laugh or a sob, and kissed Aziraphale wetly before leaning back to swipe at his eyes.

 

“Sorry,” he said, still looking stunned. “‘S just a lot to take in.”

 

Frankly, he looked as though Aziraphale was the only thing holding him upright, and Aziraphale was filled with such surpassing fondness that it was almost bursting from his skin. He’d thought, before, when he was still trying to protect himself, that our side was the only thing he had left, but that was all backwards: he’d chosen it, not been reduced to it, and being here with Crowley was the only thing he wanted.

 

“I know, darling,” Aziraphale said, leaning back in for another kiss. “Just let me-- I’ve got you.”

 

Another cracked laugh-sob. “Just to be clear, this is a forever kind of thing, right? Because I don’t… I don’t....”

 

Aziraphale made soothing noises, kissing his nose, his forehead. “I’m not going anywhere, not without you, not ever again.”

 

“Do you promise?”

 

“I do. I love you so much.” It hurt again to say it -- how could it hurt? -- the words ripping out to leave him torn and bleeding inside where they had been stored for so long. “Please let me show you.”

 

Aziraphale kissed him again, deeper this time, indulging himself, until Crowley was moaning into his mouth. Hands in Crowley’s hair, he tugged his head to one side so he could get at Crowley's neck, kissing beneath his ear where his skin smelled so pure. Crowley was breathing hard, slumped back against the picture window, hands clenching spasmodically in Aziraphale’s coat sleeves (why did he still have that on, why?

 

“Aziraphale,” Crowley moaned, the sound of it soft and pleasure-drunk. “Need you closer.”

 

He sounded so desperate, but they were already body-to-body. Aziraphale pressed him back harder into the window and Crowley let out a string of sibilants.

 

“I don’t want to hurt you,” Aziraphale said, nibbling his way up to Crowley’s ear. Crowley’s arms went around his shoulders like a vice as though he thought Aziraphale might try to retreat. His chest was heaving and it took several goes for him to be able to speak.

 

“Don’t know if I know how to stop fighting for you.”

 

“I’m here, my love,” Aziraphale murmured into his ear. Crowley shuddered, head falling back against the glass, eyes screwed shut. “I love you. I love you.” 

 

Stop fighting yourself, he didn’t say. He didn’t need to say it, really. Crowley was relaxing by increments, that internal tension he carried everywhere with him loosening just a little at every endearment that tripped so achingly from Aziraphale’s tongue. And there it was again, the surge of love so fierce it seared him, the violent rush of sensation in a limb left too-long immobile. He kissed Crowley’s tattoo, his cheek, and slid one thigh between Crowley’s legs as he found his mouth once more. Felt the stutter of Crowley’s hips, the sharp want of his own desire.

 

A fumbling desperation overcame him, pooling in his fingertips, and he pushed aside Crowley’s scarf, reached for his shirt buttons.

 

“Is this okay?” he asked breathlessly, already popping them loose, drawn helplessly to put his mouth on Crowley’s collarbones. 

 

“Oh, G--” Crowley muttered, hips jerking again. Aziraphale could feel how hard he was, his own desire rising hot and insistent. Aziraphale kissed down his chest as it was revealed, couldn’t resist licking a nipple.

 

“You taste scrumptious, my dear,” Aziraphale told him, making his way back up to that spot on Crowley’s neck that so delighted him, hands working busily to untuck the now-open shirt. “The best thing I’ve ever had in my mouth.”

 

“Angel,” Crowley groaned, his pained expression having quite an effect on regions south of Aziraphale’s waistband. “You can’t say things like that.”

 

“Whyever not? We’re in love, Crowley--” a small whimper from the demon, that exquisite pain in the angel’s chest-- “I think I should like to praise you as much as I want.”

 

“If you want to make me come in my trousers, then by all means, continue,” Crowley panted. He’d meant it sarcastically, Aziraphale supposed, but his voice was hoarse with a very real struggle, and mostly just sounded plaintive. Aziraphale drew back just enough to take in his expression.

 

“Is that a problem?” he asked, filled with a carnal sort of curiosity.

 

“Uhh,” Crowley stammered, and his eyes, oh his beautiful eyes, the yellow had expanded to overtake the whites. The effect, along with Crowley’s tousled hair, the high flush in his cheeks and open shirt, the way he continued to helplessly ride Aziraphale’s thigh, was quite the most erotic thing Aziraphale had ever seen. “Might make a bit of a mess,” he said weakly.

 

“Well,” Aziraphale said, trailing one hand down the center of Crowley’s chest slowly enough that he could object if he didn’t like this plan, “correct me if I’m wrong, but I’d been led to believe this whole sort of endeavour is rather messy.”

 

He reached Crowley’s belt, toying with it a moment as he met Crowley’s eyes, waiting to see if an objection was going to come.

 

Fuck,” Crowley hissed. “Touch me, Aziraphale, please.”

 

I will never deny you again, Aziraphale thought, and slid his hand down over Crowley’s jeans-clad erection. Crowley’s mouth fell open, slack and soft, and Aziraphale leaned in to suck on his lower lip as he rubbed him firmly with the palm of his hand. Crowley was close now, desperately so, he could tell from the pitch of his breath, the arc of his neck, the clench of his eyes and jaw.

 

“It’s all right,” Aziraphale murmured, “we made it here, love, you can let go now.”

 

“Argh! Bless it,” Crowley cursed. “This isn’t, I’m not--” Giving up on words, he swatted Aziraphale’s busy hand away, took him by the hips, and dragged him impossibly closer. "C'mere," he grit out. The slow drag of Crowley’s erection against his own was wonderful, and awful, and indescribable.

 

“Good-- good lord,” Aziraphale breathed, clutching at Crowley’s shoulders. He’d been so focused on Crowley he hadn’t realised how close he was, too. “I, uh -- ah!”

 

“You still have your bowtie on,” Crowley complained between gasps. Aziraphale was, in fact, still fully attired. 

 

“You can attend to-- oh -- to that later,” he assured him.

 

For a moment Crowley looked like he might protest, but frankly Aziraphale was done talking for the time being. He kissed Crowley heatedly, rubbing and moaning against him like a wanton. It was heady and base, mouthwatering and utterly perfect. Crowley’s hands slid round from his waist to his backside, his grip sending bolts of lust through Aziraphale’s body of a weight and measure that weakened his knees. Aziraphale had never felt more alive, or more free.

 

Crowley was making a string of noises in his throat that were deeply compelling, hitching and needy, and Aziraphale could feel the iron-rod tension in Crowley’s body, not the usual kind that made him vibrate so, but a reaching, yearning kind of thing that was drawing him in to the close.

 

"Oh, God," he moaned, not even present enough to correct himself. "Oh shit, fuck, Aziraphale!"

 

Under Aziraphale’s hands, Crowley’s whole body went trembling-hard, straining, hands clawed in Aziraphale’s flesh. Then he snapped, cried out, head thrown back, throat bared. It was like watching a flower blooming under his hands, except this hadn’t taken a miracle, just honesty and the judicious application of friction. He was stupidly in love.

 

“You,” Crowley muttered through jerky, rasping breaths as he came back down. “I can’t believe you.”

 

He was sweating, a light sheen covering his exposed skin quite tantalisingly. Preferring to be tempted rather than tantalised, Aziraphale leaned in to Crowley’s neck to taste him.

 

“Angel,” Crowley continued, sounding a little strangled. “D’you realise you just fucked me up against an open window?”

 

Still painfully aroused, the vulgar language was like a caress between Aziraphale’s legs.

 

“Yes, that was rather the point.”

 

It didn’t matter that they were both still mostly clothed, and that there wasn’t really much in the way of a line of sight from Crowley's penthouse flat. What mattered was not caring who saw them. Metaphorically, metaphysically or, well, actually. He felt rather pleased with his own boldness. (Not to mention the idea of claiming Crowley publicly was and no doubt would continue to be quite a considerable turn on).

 

“Nng,” Crowley said. Then he took a deep breath, got his legs back under him, and the next thing Aziraphale knew, he was being manhandled around until their positions were reversed and Crowley was holding his face in his hands, kissing him deeply, moving sinuously against him, and Aziraphale was moaning and moaning and couldn’t stop moaning. 

 

“Like this, do you, angel?” Crowley asked, only drawing back just long enough to speak. “A bit rough, a bit raw. Shouldn’t be surprised, really, the way you pushed my buttons in Tadfield.” Oh, so he’d noticed that. A surge of pure lust shot through Aziraphale at the thought they’d been on the same erotically charged page. “The way you’re always in such a rage for pleasure, with your fine dining and your tailored clothes, don’t think I haven’t noticed. The way you touch your books sometimes is indecent.” He thrust against him roughly and Aziraphale went weak. Then Crowley’s hands were on the move, working at his neck until his bowtie was gone and his top button open. “Look at you,” Crowley murmured. “I’ve been dreaming about doing that for 150 years.”

 

“Careful with it,” Aziraphale managed to whine. “I’m very fond of that one.”

 

“Oh yes,” Crowley mocked. “Would hate for your clothes to get ruined.” And as he said it, his hands moved on again, this time to the front of Aziraphale’s trousers, where his fumbling touch at the fastenings and fly was almost too much to bear.

 

“I’m going to--” Aziraphale gasped.

 

“I’ve got you, angel,” Crowley told him, tender again (tender still -- whatever he said, it was always there under his words), and kissed him so sweetly Aziraphale’s chest seized with it, while his hand slipped under Aziraphale’s clothes and took his erection in hand.

 

It didn’t take much, after that. A couple of strokes of Crowley’s hand, Crowley’s breath hot in his ear, words of love and filth urging him on, and he was utterly undone, arching, crying out in pleasure.

 

Afterwards, Aziraphale simply breathed, weak and speechless in the aftermath. They were holding onto each other in a vain fight against gravity; before long they were sliding to the floor in an undignified heap, laughing a little brokenly.

 

“Well,” Aziraphale said from his position lying half on top of Crowley. “That was…”

 

Crowley looked up at him, wide-eyed, utterly open, utterly vulnerable. “Yeah.”

 

Aziraphale let his head fall on to Crowley’s shoulder, tucked in to the sweet spot on his neck, and buried a hand in his hair. “I really do love you, very much.” And there, the pain again, but not so raw now. A healing pain, maybe. However much he’d hurt Crowley by holding back all these years, he’d hurt himself, too. It would take some time to recover, he supposed.


“Love you too, angel,” Crowley said quietly. And oh, that-- that didn’t hurt at all. That felt wonderful to hear. He clutched Crowley tightly, marvelling.

Chapter Text

7

 

“So how was that for a first go?” Aziraphale asked a short while later between drowsy kisses. They were still lying tangled on Crowley’s living room floor and it was a little uncomfortable but he’d never been happier.

 

Crowley made a considering noise at the back of his throat. “Pretty good,” he said, with such obviously fake nonchalance that Aziraphale couldn’t help grinning at him like a fool.

 

“You called my name and begged me to make you--” he flushed-- “you know.”

 

Come?” Crowley replied, over-pronouncing it on purpose, Aziraphale was sure of it. He was rather beyond being embarrassed at this point, but the way Crowley smiled, cheeky and bright, dimples showing, was so rare and so precious that Aziraphale felt himself flustering anyway.

 

“So I’d say it was rather better than pretty good,” he added in a rush.

 

Crowley leaned up and kissed him, a soft, chaste touch of lips. “It was spectacular, angel,” he said.

 

Aziraphale smiled a little falteringly. There was something in his face, something being left unsaid, and he rather thought they were past that, now.

 

“But?”

 

Crowley flopped back down on the rug, letting out a breath and staring up at the ceiling. “But nothing, it was amazing. More than I ever dreamed.” Aziraphale gave Crowley a few moments to experience his quiet scrutiny. “Argh, all right! I’m just-- I wanted to--” He broke off, frustrated and… ashamed?

 

“Crowley, tell me,” Aziraphale begged, touching his cheek.

 

“It was all a bit much, okay? Very overwhelming, and I didn’t…” He looked back up at Aziraphale, expression naked, especially so without his sunglasses on. “I always thought, if I ever got the chance at this, I thought I’d be the one to, to take care of you. The way you deserve, angel. Not…”

 

“Oh, Crowley,” Aziraphale said softly, “you never stop amazing me.” He let one finger come to rest against Crowley’s lips to stop him when he looked ready to protest. “No, listen, my darling. You have treated me with more kindness, more generosity, than any other being I have ever known. For the longest time I think… I think I told myself it must be a bad thing because I didn’t feel…” he thought of Gabriel and Michael’s condescension, Uriel’s open disdain, Sandalphon’s fist in his stomach, even the way the quartermaster had belittled him. “Worthy.” The word came out on a breath, wobbling a little.

 

“No,” Crowley said, pushing up onto his elbows. “No no no, Aziraphale, absolutely not. If you think a single one of those bastards could hold a candle to you, I’ll--”

 

“It’s all right,” Aziraphale interrupted him. “I wasn’t finished. I thought it was something I, well, something I shouldn’t want. Something I let myself indulge in, because I liked it so much, you see? But a flaw, nonetheless. I lumped it all together with eating and, and book collecting and all that, skirting some imaginary line in my head. Self-delusion, obviously.” He smiled ruefully.

 

“Obviously,” Crowley repeated in disbelief. He was looking a little shaken again, and Aziraphale rushed to soothe him.

 

“But the point is, you have always treated me that way, and I’ve always known what it m-- um, that I liked it. And every now and again, you deserve to let yourself be loved in return.”

 

Crowley eyes slid away and he flushed very fetchingly. “Shut up. Wait, always?” he asked. Aziraphale nodded. “You’ve known how I--? All this time?”

 

Ah, caught out after all, the wily serpent. Aziraphale cupped his cheek. “Angels can sense love, you know that.”

 

“Oh. Right.”

 

Aziraphale took a moment to rearrange himself, so that he was less draped over Crowley, and more sitting on him, then pulled Crowley up too. Like that, sitting in Crowley’s lap, he wrapped his arms around Crowley’s shoulders and held him close.

 

“It’s been a long journey,” he whispered.

 

“Yeah,” Crowley replied, burying his face in Aziraphale’s shoulder, arms going around his waist. “Wouldn’t change a moment of it.” There was a pause. “Maybe could’ve done without the 14th century.”

 

Aziraphale laughed softly, filled up with love. “Now,” he said, kissing Crowley on the temple. “All that said, if you had something else you fancied adding to our evening…?”

 

“As a matter of fact,” Crowley said, and a moment later, Aziraphale found himself the subject of a show of demonic strength as Crowley picked him up and carried him across the flat to his bedroom like they were newlyweds. “Now I want to do you right.”

 

“Good heavens,” Aziraphale said, somewhere between surprise and laughter, very much delighted. 

 

Crowley spluttered. “I mean do right by y-- uhh nevermind, I stand by my first statement.”

 

Then Crowley set him gently on the bed. Their eyes caught, the world narrowed, and Aziraphale’s heart beat wildly.

 

***

 

Aziraphale writhed amid Crowley’s bedding, hands bunched in the cool slide of the sheets. Between his legs, Crowley was engaged in some kind of leisurely torture, a slow, slow, building pleasure that was driving Aziraphale to some truly dizzying heights of desire. He loved every moment of it.

 

The bedroom was dark but the door was wide open, light from the hallway trickling in. Coming from behind Crowley, it limned his sweat-damp shoulders and lit his hair in quite exquisite fashion. His eyes, when open, glowed faintly, though just now they were closed in a look of rapture as he laved and probed a very delicate part of Aziraphale’s anatomy, breaching him gently with his tongue before returning to those maddening licks. The pleasure built in voluptuous, heated waves, rising up at Crowley’s clever touch and receding again every time he slowed or redirected his attention. Aziraphale hadn’t previously known he was in possession of so many body parts dying for his Crowley’s touch: the shell of his ear, the dip of his throat, the span of his ribs, the tips of his fingers. Good God the way Crowley had kissed his ankles minutes (or hours?) ago had made him melt into the pillows. Now on his way back up, Crowley’s attentions were becoming ever more intense, and Aziraphale couldn’t help the way his spine flexed and throat worked.

 

The sound that left him when Crowley drew back once more was something close to a whine, the hot rise of pleasure easing back from the edge again. 

 

“Crowley,” he groaned. “I know-- I know aspersions may have been cast on your -- oh -- your speed in the past, but please, darling, if you go any slower, I’ll…”

 

His voice trailed off in a heartfelt moan as Crowley, grinning, kissed his way up the length of Aziraphale’s shaft.

 

“I’ve spent six thousand years watching you savour every meal like it’s your first. Now it’s my turn,” he said, before opening his lips over the head and taking him in. 

 

“Oh, oh yes,” Aziraphale breathed, reaching down jerkily to pet Crowley’s hair. “Well, when you put it like that, I suppose you-- oh! That’s so good.” Crowley made a noise in the back of his throat that sounded like pain but looked like pleasure, that reverberated down the length of Aziraphale’s cock straight into his bloodstream. He couldn’t fail to notice, smiling to himself around his gasps, letting the sweetness Crowley had poured into his body overflow from his mouth. “You’re so good to me, my darling. I can’t believe how good you make me feel,” he murmured, craning to watch the obscene stretch of Crowley’s mouth around his flesh, the long, sweet lines of him stretched out below Aziraphale’s body on the bed. “I could keep you here for the rest of the week, just for this.”

 

“Ffff-- angel, stop,” Crowley hissed, pausing his ministrations to rest his forehead on the curve of Aziraphale’s belly. Though he had barely allowed Aziraphale to touch him, Crowley was breathing raggedly, as if it had been as good for him as he had made it for Aziraphale.

 

Aziraphale curled gentle fingertips against his scalp. “I will if you want me to, of course.”

 

“Nnn… bless it…” Crowley’s hot breath was tantalising against Aziraphale’s aching shaft, his fingers toying with Aziraphale’s spit-slick hole almost idly while he seemed to struggle with himself, and it took a great deal of patience not to simply grip him by the hair and put him back to work. (Aziraphale wondered if Crowley might enjoy that, another time. The way he’d gone almost totally pliant during their earlier lovemaking after Aziraphale had taken the lead was an interesting thought for later.) “I don’t completely hate it,” he finally ground out. “Do it if it makes you happy.”

 

“Oh, really?” Aziraphale beamed. “My dear, you really are so very--”

 

Crowley pushed a fingertip into him and sucked hard enough to steal his breath, a long, terrible glide down and back up that seemed to somehow connect with that tiny, welcome intrusion to Aziraphale’s body to make him arch off the bed in ecstasy. Every time he caught his breath, Crowley did it again, and again, before releasing him just as suddenly and slithering all the way up his body.

 

“On second thoughts,” Crowley muttered, pressing kisses along Aziraphale’s jaw, “let’s save that for another time. I’m not ready to be done yet.”

 

“Whatever you prefer,” Aziraphale panted, guiding Crowley in for a kiss, distracted, captivated by the sudden unexpected pleasure of Crowley lying on top of him. The way it felt to be pressed down into the bed, the glide of their skin made slick by their sweat, it was safety and throbbing desire all at once. Every part of Crowley fit every part of him, narrow hips between Aziraphale’s thighs, arms holding and cradling, their erections trapped between them and snugged up together, the sensations indescribably lovely. But aside from that, Aziraphale was utterly unprepared for how it felt

 

He thought he’d understood intimacy, the shape of wine-soaked evenings in the bookshop, of secrets shared and jokes, too; of whims and quirks so deeply ingrained in each other as to be expected, to be loved. He thought he’d understood the topography of two lives intertwined for six millennia. He hadn’t understood this: the weight and shape of Crowley’s body in a bed atop his own, his presence, his care, the warm puff of his breath and his small sounds of need, how the scattering of freckles on his shoulders looked like lost constellations, and how very close Aziraphale felt to him just then.

 

Yes, he thought, helplessly. This. You. And somehow what rose to the surface was relief, so strong it brought tears to his eyes.

 

They kissed for some time, long, deep, searching kisses, Aziraphale sunk happily into the pillows with Crowley a delicious anchor on top of him. Aziraphale held him tightly, arms around his shoulders, legs wrapped around his rocking hips. It was all so breathtakingly easy. Crowley made some very interesting noises at the constriction, but it was the petting that made him gasp, Aziraphale stroking his flanks and the planes of his back lightly at first, and then harder, experimenting, using his nails, until Crowley broke away to hiss in uncontrolled pleasure, back arching in a way that drove his hips down hard against Aziraphale’s.

 

Aziraphale stared up at his face, struck. It hardly seemed possible that someone he had known so long and so well had any facets that Aziraphale hadn’t seen, and yet this, here, being under him, being able to study him without shame or fear while at the same time being held down by him, body thick and heavy with pleasure brought at his hand, and watching now as he found pleasure too -- this was entirely new. It was… dazzling.

 

Stunned and fascinated, and very eager to put that look on Crowley’s face again, Aziraphale scraped a shivering trail down Crowley’s back until he reached his rear, squeezing hard into the flesh he found there -- he feared a little too hard, until Crowley cursed again and let slip a string of dirty praise that left Aziraphale swelling towards the edge once more.

 

“Fuck, yes, Aziraphale -- ahh -- that’s it. Harder. Harder.”

 

“Crowley, oh,” Aziraphale gasped. “Crowley, I’m close.”

 

“Yeah,” he panted, leaning down for a messy kiss. “Me too.”

 

Aziraphale succumbed to this kiss for a moment before pushing him back. 

 

“I want to see your face,” he said. 

 

Crowley made a guttural sound, and rolled his hips against him, guided by Aziraphale’s hands, slow as the ocean and just as inevitable. 

 

Then it was nothing but Crowley’s eyes, luminous and lust-drunk, the scent and taste of his pleasure-slick skin, the lovely flush of exertion and arousal. His mouth was red and well-kissed; Aziraphale’s desire was rising and, oh god, oh, cresting, a long, hot moment at the peak as he strained against Crowley’s belly. 

 

Aziraphale came to the sight of Crowley’s beloved face, and behind him, on the ceiling, those ridiculous plastic stars emitting their weak green glow. In that moment, Aziraphale couldn’t have loved him more.

Chapter Text

Epilogue

 

Crowley stood in the harsh light of his obnoxiously over-sized en suite and took a moment to inspect his naked body in the mirror. His white skin was a galaxy of faint red scratch-lines that Aziraphale had scored into him during the course of their lovemaking, finger-shaped marks that would hopefully bruise, the flaking remains of both of their come, and one spectacular lovebite high on his neck that would be next to impossible to cover up tomorrow. It was… well, he was having a lot of feelings about it. Lot of big, slightly messy feelings, and he just needed to take a moment to ensure he wasn’t going to break down in front of Aziraphale again.

 

That love bite, though. He angled his chin up to get a better look at it, and couldn’t resist tracing it with his fingers for confirmation. His skin was still incredibly sensitive, and the thing hurt, but in a way that sent a shiver of pleasure down his spine. His pussy twitched feebly (he had switched genitals at some point, he could barely remember when, only that Aziraphale had been greedy enough to want to taste him both ways) and Crowley shot its reflection a raised eyebrow, because really, points for effort, but they’d been at it for hours and even their occult and ethereal stamina had its limits.

 

Presumably it had its limits.

 

Might be an interesting experiment one of these days.

 

Fuck. One of these days. One of these future days, in which he and Aziraphale would continue to be in love with each other, continue to actually be together.

 

Extravagant desires had always suited him best. Fast cars, nice digs, good music, and there was nothing more extravagant than taking Aziraphale for a fancy lunch as often as demonly possible. Reciprocation was somewhat uncharted territory, though.

 

Already white-knuckling the marble vanity, Crowley bent almost double to rest his forehead on the cool surface for a moment, head caged inside his arms, trying to remember how to breathe past all these blessed emotions. When he looked back up, he caught a glance of more marks on his shoulders. Marks that Aziraphale had put there. Crowley wondered how long he could will them to stay.

 

“Crowley? What are you-- oh I say!”

 

In the mirror, Crowley saw Aziraphale padding in after him, also completely nude and literally glowing with contentment, an ethereal light pouring from his skin, just to the left of human vision. Crowley turned to look at what had got him so transfixed, and realised it was the generously-sized, hideously ornate bathtub he barely ever used but had got for the aesthetic (it matched his office chair). 

 

Aziraphale turned to look at him, face bright with excitement. “Can we?”

 

“Thought the shine had gone off, after your little diabolical dunking.”

 

“Well, it looks big enough for two, and I’m quite certain if you get in with me you could find a way to take those dreadful memories away.”

 

Crowley laughed weakly, both at his expression, and his optimism. “You are insatiable. Should’ve known.”

 

Aziraphale gave him a soft, affectionate smile before crossing the room to lean up into him and press a kiss to his over-sensitive lips. And yeah, all right, if Aziraphale wanted to have Crowley in the bathtub, Crowley was under no illusions whatsoever that he would find a way to do it. But--

 

“Gotta admit, angel, I'm pretty toasted. Might need a minute if you want to...”

 

Aziraphale smiled up at him, and brushed back the hair that was falling limp and unstyled over his forehead.

 

“You are a wonder,” he said quietly, and Crowley swayed helplessly into his touch. “But I had something else in mind.”

 

With the little flourish he favoured (and that Crowley found so blessedly endearing) Aziraphale replaced the harsh white lights with candles, flickering and warm-scented, and filled the bath with steaming water. He bounced happily on his toes for a moment, before leading Crowley over by the hand.

 

The bathtub was vast, and quite comfortably sized for two (very probably even more comfortably sized, after Aziraphale had finished with it, but Crowley certainly wasn’t going to protest). He climbed in and lay back beside Aziraphale, taking his hand under the waterline, and closed his eyes, breathing deeply. The scent of the candles filled his lungs.

 

“What is that, cinnamon?”

 

“Ah, oh, yes. Cinnamon, ginger, cassia, a touch of pepper.”

 

“Feeling a little Grecian, are we?” Eyes still closed, Crowley smirked fondly to himself. Aziraphale had so loved Ancient Greece.

 

“Well,” his angel said. “Actually, those particular spices have always reminded me of you.”

 

Crowley opened his eyes in surprise. “The smell of a three thousand year old marketplace reminds you of me?”

 

“Don’t you remember walking through the spice stalls in those days, the sublime smell of it? How the world suddenly seemed more, I don’t know, colourful? It was the same sort of feeling I got being with you.”

 

These things he said, these effortless words of love and shows of affection, they left Crowley utterly defenseless: shield on the ground, chainmail gaping. One careless swing of the sword would leave him bleeding on the floor and he was quite sure Aziraphale was going to end him that way, one of these days. He’d go happy, though.

 

Letting his eyes fall closed again Crowley rolled to the side, and wordlessly Aziraphale gathered him in. Perfect synchrony. Part of him, the part that was never still or silent, was begging to understand how? Why? And when would it all be taken away again? But he forced it silent for now, because Aziraphale had always been different, and Aziraphale had always been good, and right now Aziraphale was holding him against his chest and carding his fingers through Crowley’s damp hair and the moment couldn’t be any more perfect in any possible way.

 

“D’you remember what you said earlier, ‘bout free will?” Crowley asked, drowsy from the heat and the attention.

 

“Yes.”

 

“Think you were right. Demon. Angel. How else could we’ve got here?”

 

Aziraphale made a thoughtful noise. “What is it they say? Love is an active verb?”

 

“Mmn?”

 

“I think it means, when it comes to being with someone you love, you have to keep choosing each other, over and over, and over again.”

 

“Right, exactly. I choose you, angel. Always have, always will.”

 

“Our side,” Aziraphale murmured. “I choose you too, Crowley.”

 

Crowley made a pained noise while his whole body tried to curl up and hide in the space between Aziraphale’s neck and shoulder, and being in water as they were, loose-limbed and light-bodied, the movement must have been horribly obvious to Aziraphale long before Crowley could make himself stop it. But after an awkward moment, Aziraphale repositioned them in the voluminous bath so that Crowley was curled up in his lap instead, head resting beside Aziraphale’s, nose brushing his cheek.

 

Aziraphale held Crowley fast around the waist with one hand, and went back to stroking his hair with the other, and murmured softly in his ear, “Remember what I told you earlier. Let me love you, my dear. Please.”

 

Extravagant desires had always suited him best. There was nothing more extravagant than falling for your supposed enemy, except, perhaps, letting him catch you.

 

“Teach me how,” he whispered back; a storm, calming.