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there'll be talk of what this is

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He'd really gone and done it this time.

 

Crowley is by no means a stranger to trouble. In fact, he'd be insulted if you implied he was. It's just that usually when he and trouble tango, he avoids getting his feet stepped on. Apparently, he's out of practice.

 

Although he and Aziraphale are hardly the only demonic and angelic presence on Earth, everyone tends to keep to their corners, save on rare occasions. Aziraphale's job is to thwart Crowley, and Crowley's job is to thwart Aziraphale. They come in pairs like that. Nice and tidy.

 

The angel he had encountered tonight was most certainly not Aziraphale and was most certainly not interested in exchanging how-do-you-dos. 

 

As he leans over the sink, he surveys the damage in his bathroom mirror. Demons tend not to survive encounters with holy water, but thankfully he hadn't gotten much on him. Even still, the few drops which had touched him had certainly done their job. If he'd ever had questions as to the lethality of the stuff, the third-degree burns on his skin are enough to chase them away. The skin of his shoulder is marked in splotches of raw, angry red which fade out to a blistered pink rounded in a ring of white, oozing constantly. Not pretty. And not something he can just miracle his way out of.

 

Which means it's good old human first aid for him. Thankfully he'd had this in mind and had popped into the drug store on his way home. Applying antibiotic lotion isn't what he'd call a treat, but once the gauze is in place, the bandage is wrapped, and he's got a cold compress on his shoulder and a drink in his hand, he would say things are markedly improved.

 

He just has to wait this out, that's all. No problem.

 


 

"Are you certain you're alright?"

 

Crowley blows out a harsh breath, making sure that the angel on the other end of the line has no questions as to his feelings on the matter.

 

"I've told you, they're blowing the whole thing out of proportion to make themselves look better," Crowley says into the receiver. "Be a fine feather in their cap, wouldn't it? Wounding a demon as profligate as myself."

 

"Crowley..."

 

Crowley can picture Aziraphale's pouting face from the tone of his voice alone. Six thousand years will get you that much.

 

"They said they'd wounded a demon with holy water," Aziraphale says quietly, as though fearing being overheard. 

 

"I'm sure that's what they wish they had done," Crowley replies, trying to sound as bored as possible. "The reality is far less glamorous. Never so much as touched me."

 

Crowley is good at telling lies. Sometimes Aziraphale is even good at falling for them.

 

"If you're sure..." Aziraphale murmurs, still sounding hesitant.

 

"I'm sure. I'm also sure I've got things to do and places to be," Crowley drawls. "Goodbye now, angel."

 

"Oh, well, goodb—"

 

Crowley doesn't let him finish before dropping the phone back to its cradle. It's true that he does have things to do and places to be. It's just that the things he has to do are change his bandages and sleep, and the place he has to be is his bed. With that in mind, he drags himself to his feet, pausing with a wince to lean on his desk for a moment. Just a moment.

 

Truth be told, this whole waiting it out thing with the holy water isn't going exactly as he'd hoped it would. In fact, it just appears to be getting worse. When he peels back the gauze to change it out, he's met with the unmistakable scent of infection. The wounds are yellow and crusting to a darkening green at the edges, pus dripping from them and soaking into the bandages. The antibacterial ointments and washes don't seem to be doing more than causing him further pain, no matter how clean he keeps the wounds or how often he changes his dressings.

 

He falls back into bed with a soft groan, another cold compress pressed to his shoulder. There are times when he can't seem to tell whether he's burning or freezing, but the present heat of his skin makes it easier to keep the ice against it. Demons—and angels—don't really get sick. Not the way humans do. Even if they're in human bodies. But something like this is... unusual. Crowley hasn't heard many stories of demons coming into contact with holy water and surviving. But so little had actually touched him.

 

So perhaps he was right. Perhaps this is just... a reaction while his human body heals. Telling Aziraphale would only worry the angel needlessly and Crowley would never hear the end of it. He doesn't need Aziraphale hovering over him like a nursemaid. He doesn't need anyone. He's fine.

 

He's fine.

 


 

Aziraphale is convinced that Crowley is very far from alright.

 

He may have been willing to give him the benefit of the doubt when they'd last spoken, but that had been over a week ago and his subsequent calls have gone unanswered. Yes, it's true that Crowley claimed to have things to do and places to be... but usually he would at least stop by the shop after to gloat about whatever minor misery he'd managed to cause.

 

It's possible that he's simply been away. Out of town. Busy. But... Aziraphale doesn't think that's the case. Finding the Bentley parked outside Crowley's home just makes him sure of that. Straightening his tie subconsciously, he steps up to the door and presses briefly on the buzzer. He waits with his hands folded neatly behind his back for what he considers a polite amount of time before pressing the buzzer again. He repeats this process several times as a stray cat watches him with judgment in its eyes before he concludes that no one is coming to the door.

 

"I'll just pop in to have a look—just to be sure—and if he's not there, I can just explain later," he says, as though trying to justify his actions to himself. "Right."

 

Glancing along either side of the street and finding it empty, he reaches for the handle and snaps the fingers of his free hand. To a passerby, the motion might look as though he were unlocking the door with a key, rather than performing a minor miracle.

 

Aziraphale usually doesn't come to Crowley's home. Typically it's the opposite. Well, typically it's the shop. In any case, he's only been here a handful of times and even then it’s only been outside the building. He’s not sure what he expected Crowley’s home to look like, but the decor is undoubtedly his style. The interior is dark as anything, the furniture sparse but posh. But any further exploration is halted when he senses... something. Something which shouldn’t be here.

 

Something holy.

 

It’s faint, but given that he’s in a demon’s home, it stands out like a sore thumb. 

 

“Crowley?” he calls out. “Crowley, it’s me. I just came to check in–you haven’t been answering my calls. I, ah, wasn’t sure if that was on purpose or not.”

 

Part of him hopes he isn’t going to find what he has a sneaking suspicion he’s going to find. But then again, not finding Crowley here would present a whole new set of problems. So he pushes onward, clearing the living room and the kitchen before proceeding down the hall towards the bedroom. 

 

“Crowley?” he calls once more, gently pushing the door open.

 

The demon is flat on his back in the bed, the duvet pulled up only so far as his waist. Aziraphale has a clear view of the bandages wrapped around Crowley’s shoulder and he feels a sudden sinking in his stomach. His sense of propriety gone out the window, the angel hurries forward, afraid of what exactly it is he’ll find.

 

“Crowley!”

 

At last, he gets a response, now that he’s within a foot of the demon in question. Crowley’s eyes crack open wearily as he turns his head in Aziraphale’s direction. His skin shines with a layer of sweat, his hair damp with it. His cheeks are flush with fever despite the sickly pale color the rest of him has taken on.

 

“Angel...?”

 

His voice is hoarse with disuse, his lips dry and cracked. Lord only knows how long he’s been here in this state.

 

“My dear, whatever has happened to you?” Aziraphale asks, crouching to examine him more closely. “These bandages... Crowley, the angel who claimed to have wounded a demon with holy water, that’s what this is, isn’t it?”

 

Crowley groans softly as he shifts. “Just a bit. Few drops. Thought I could... handle it m’self...”

 

“Of course you couldn’t! Not any more than I could handle wounds from hellfire on my own,” Aziraphale replies. He holds a hand over Crowley’s shoulder, not quite touching, but feeling. Definitely not good, is what he finds. “Even a few drops can be lethal if not handled appropriately. It’s absorbed into your body, which means those wounds won’t heal by themselves.”

 

“And I assume you know what to do?” Crowley asks.

 

Aziraphale nods. “Yes, but... I’m afraid it may be rather painful, especially since it’s had this long to, well, soak in, I suppose you could say.”

 

“I can take it,” Crowley declares, struggling to sit himself up.

 

The angel’s hands flutter like anxious birds, wanting to stop him from straining himself but unsure where to touch. He feels the incessant need to help, to fix, to do something, but there are... certain boundaries between them. Certain lines that haven’t been crossed. And he’s afraid of stumbling over them in his haste to do something about his friend’s condition.

 

“In your current state, I’m not sure that you can,” Aziraphale informs him gently.

 

“Do I have much of a choice?”

 

Aziraphale nibbles on his lower lip. “I suppose not.”

 

Really, it’s either they do this now or Crowley’s body–and potentially his very being–continue to be consumed by the holy water. As Crowley helps him slowly peel the bandages away, Aziraphale can see how the water has eaten into his skin like acid. The pungent scent of infection hits him like a truck and he knows that even after the holy essence has been extracted, Crowley’s body will need time to heal the damage left in its wake.

 

Aziraphale sheds his coat, hanging it on the back of Crowley’s door before returning to his bedside. The angel rolls up his sleeves, preparing to get to work.

 


 

Crowley hadn’t expected Aziraphale to come break into his flat just because he missed a few phone calls. But listening to the angel’s fretting, he learns it had been more than just a few. Apparently, he’s been out for about a week now. If he were mortal, undoubtedly the infection would have killed him by now but frankly, he’s feeling like death warmed over as it is.

 

He doesn’t know why he didn’t ask for Aziraphale’s help in the first place. Well, no, that’s not true, is it? He knows precisely why. Because firstly, he was a stubborn git even before he Fell, and secondly, the last thing he wants is to make the angel worry. Not about him. Well, it seems he’s gone and done that anyway, though it truly wasn’t his intention. Blue eyes filled to the brim with concern watch him carefully and it’s enough to make Crowley sick to his stomach.

 

“Right. I’ll do this as quickly as I can, but you may wish to hold onto something,” Aziraphale advises him.

 

Crowley waves a hand in a weak dismissal. Best to just get on with it. Aziraphale inhales deeply and offers him a stiff nod as he brings his hands to hover over the grievous wounds. There’s a brief twinge and Crowley foolishly thinks to itself that it’s not so bad after all. Seconds later he realizes that was a mistake.

 

A sudden, searing pain grips his entire body and he’s thankful he doesn’t actually need to breathe since he couldn’t now if he tried. It feels like Aziraphale has somehow managed to hook every nerve ending in his body and yanked as hard as he could in an effort to turn him inside out. He sees stars dotting his vision, like the stars he scattered in the sky such a long, long time ago; they’re close enough that he could nearly touch them, nearly reach them again. 

 

And then it stops.

 

Crowley comes back to himself, panting and sweating, curled forward into Aziraphale’s chest and gripping his ridiculous waistcoat for dear life. He feels one of the angel’s hands atop his head, keeping him right where he is, tucked close to him as he works. Except he’s not working now. He’s stopped, murmuring some soothing nonsense that Crowley can’t really hear the specifics of.

 

“Don’t stop,” Crowley gasps. “Keep going. Just... get it over with.”

 

The twitch of Aziraphale’s fingers against the back of his neck tell him that the angel really doesn’t wish to continue. But he will. Because the alternative is so much worse than whatever pain he might cause now.

 

It begins again with another sharp pull. Seconds feel as though they turn into hours as he does his best to keep himself from flying apart. It feels like... Not quite like Falling, but damn near the closest thing he’s experienced to it. Like the fabric of his being is being slowly unraveled by someone who’s in no rush to finish. He’d say it’s like being torn limb from limb, but he thinks that might be a pleasure in comparison. Even his little case of hotfoot in the church back in the forties didn’t feel nearly this horrific. Maybe because he’d only been on top of something consecrated rather than having it inside him? Who knows? Who cares at this point, really? 

 

An eternity later, Crowley feels the pain lessening, dulling to a sort of fuzzy numbness until at last there’s nothing at all. He’s positively boneless, quivering and making no attempt to draw away as Aziraphale holds him steady.

 

“It’s alright, it’s over now,” the angel tells him. “You did so well, my dear.”

 

And God damn him for still having enough in him to feel his stomach flutter at the praise. But that’s about all he has in him. Exhaustion washes over him and he feels as though he could sleep another century at least. Aziraphale doesn’t seem to want to keep him from it, either. The last thing Crowley remembers is easing back onto his pillows and the sound of a soft promise to be there when he wakes.

 


 

“You’re sure you’re not moving just a bit too fast?” Aziraphale asks, hovering worriedly.

 

“You always think I move too fast,” Crowley points out. He can’t help the smile that curls at his lips in response to the offended pout that makes its home on Aziraphale’s face. “Lunch out is hardly exerting myself, angel.”

 

“Perhaps not, but–look, considering you lied to me about this whole thing in the first place, I think I’m justified in being a little suspicious,” Aziraphale huffs.

 

Well, yeah, there is that. He’d woken after the painful extraction process some twenty-eight hours later, his wounds redressed and covered in something decidedly nicer smelling than the antibiotic ointment he’d been using. Aziraphale had been perched in a chair he’d moved by Crowley’s bed, engrossed in a book until he’d noticed the demon awake and nearly fell out of his seat in his haste to stand. He’d plied Crowley with toast and tea and fluids, busying about the place and chattering all the while. When Crowley had asked if his side wouldn’t find his use of miracles suspicious, the angel had turned a peculiar shade of pink that had made Crowley feel heated even as he worked off his fever.

 

That had been a week ago. Aziraphale had left the next day and they hadn’t mentioned it since.

 

“Yeah, alright,” Crowley concedes. He clears his throat. “Wasn’t on purpose, though.”

 

“Well, either way, just don’t do it again,” the angel says sternly. Or in his approximation of sternly.

 

“If I say that I won’t, will you even believe it?” Crowley asks with some amusement.

 

“Likely not,” Aziraphale admits.

 

There’s a “thank you” hanging somewhere in the air between them as they continue on towards their destination, but it’s hardly anything new. Maybe someday one of them will get around to actually using it. Crowley glances sidelong at his companion, who has seemingly already forgotten his irritation with the demon just moments ago and has begun excitedly describing some sort of parfait he wants Crowley to try.

 

...not today, he decides.

Chapter Text

[LONDON, 1897]

 

Tracking Crowley down hadn't been terribly difficult since, well... Aziraphale knows where he lives. It's just that they don't visit each other like this. Ever. Yet here he is, having broken into the demon's home to—for lack of a better phrase—watch him sleep. Apparently after their rather unhappy parting of ways in 1862, Crowley had chalked up the nineteenth century as a loss and decided to sleep off the rest of it.

 

"Time passes slower without you," Aziraphale says.

 

He'd blurted it suddenly after sitting in silence for approximately three hours and while the words felt far too loud for the room, Crowley slept on. Aziraphale hadn't had this specifically in mind when he'd started towards Crowley's residence, but deep down, it's what he'd wanted, isn't it? To talk.

 

"It's an odd thing for me to say, I know. But I've found it to be quite true," he says, fiddling with the brim of his hat. "Bumped into another demon recently. Heizer, I think her name was. Not sure if you know her. She was responsible for some particularly gruesome business in Whitechapel about a decade ago. Small scale action, widespread impact; the sort of thing I think you would appreciate."

 

Crowley snorts in his sleep.

 

"But it isn't really the same, is it?" Aziraphale muses. "I mean, I know we have our Arrangement..."

 

Or is it had at this point? He isn't sure. He studies the demon flopped across the bed, duvet askew and mahogany hair sticking up in the most ridiculous fashion. If their Arrangement is over, it shouldn't bother him because it shouldn't have happened in the first place. But the thought does bother him. Rather a great deal. 

 

He's soft, he knows. It seems no one wastes a chance to remind him of that fact. (It hasn't escaped his notice how Gabriel and his flock always seem to pronounce his name as Azira-FAIL, but he does his best to convince himself it isn't done with ill-intent. They are angels, after all.) But finding himself saddened by the thought of this loss of... companionship... that's a whole new level of soft, isn't it? 

 

"I know this is about the—the item you asked me to retrieve for you," Aziraphale says, careful not to say just what the item is, fearful of being overheard even here. "I don't think there's anything wrong in having a backup plan. But you must understand it from my perspective."

 

It would destroy you.

 

His own words echo in his mind, leaving him feeling sick to his stomach.

 

"I just can't bring myself to... to be a part of that," the angel says, frowning down at his hands. "I know it's selfish of me to make that decision for you, but this isn't just death or discorporation we're talking about. You would cease to be, Crowley. I know that you know that, I'm not—I'm not inferring that you reached your decision lightly. I suppose I thought that, even if we were found out and subsequently punished, there would still be a chance..."

 

That we might see each other again.

 

The words are hanging within his reach, but the angel shies away from them, as always. He can't speak them even when Crowley's asleep, it would seem. Because it would burst this bubble of... whatever it is that they have. These... these feelings of his. Lord, he's so painfully pathetic. Taking a business arrangement, a friendship at most, and spinning it full of these sickly sweet thoughts he can't ever say aloud.

 

Aziraphale isn't even sure when it all started. He just knows that it's reached a point where he honestly can't imagine life without Crowley in it. Perhaps that's why the holy water—No. No, of course not. If there's anything more ridiculous than an angel developing these sorts of feelings for a demon, it's that the demon would return them. Especially this particular demon and this particular angel.

 

The Arrangement is enough. It's enough. So it simply can't be over.

 

"I suppose what I really wish to say is that I don't want this to be over. It's terribly boring without you around—and I know that is a frightful thing for me to say," Aziraphale proclaims. He clears his throat and slowly rises from his seat. "Well, in any case, I must be on my way. Jean Lorrain can't leave well enough alone and now Proust is calling for a duel, of all things."

 

Five minutes after the angel has left, Crowley snorts himself awake and stares around the room blearily. He swears he can smell just the faintest traist of spun sugar and old parchment... before deciding it's just his imagination and promptly falling back asleep.

Chapter Text

Crowley hauls them both as deeply into the cave as he can, the sound of crashing waves reaching them even as his hands touch upon the smooth stone of the cave's end. Aziraphale hasn't made so much as a peep, which is worrying for a number of reasons. Mainly because it's usually quite difficult to get him to shut up.

 

"You are just... so, so stupid!" Crowley hisses.

 

He snaps his fingers and a fire appears on the cave floor, burning strong without wood or smoke. They've put a good deal of distance between themselves and their pursuers, but it's likely they'll have to lie low here for a while. Thankfully, demons have very little imagination and the lower level ones are easily confused by complex tasks like talking and walking at the same time, so it's really only a matter of time before they give up.

 

"Sit," Crowley instructs, pointing at one of two cushions which have appeared before the fire.

 

The angel doesn't argue with him—another thing which is wholly unlike him—and gingerly settles himself on the cushion the demon had indicated. Crowley himself flops down beside him, agitation rolling off him in waves.

 

"... you're angry," Aziraphale observes.

 

"I'm—Ye—D'you think?" Crowley sputters. "Hellfire can't hurt me, you idiot. What did you think you were doing back there?"

 

"I know it can't hurt you," Aziraphale says, a little testily. "I just... wasn't thinking at the time."

 

"Clearly," Crowley agrees. He motions towards the angel. "Alright, let me have a look."

 

Aziraphale hesitates, eyes sliding away from Crowley. He tugs at his fingers and ties them in knots, his hands constantly moving as the only outlet to relieve the anxiety rapidly building up inside him. Because he believes Crowley is angry with him. Crowley can't exactly fault him for that; his behavior thus far hasn't done much to prove otherwise. And he is angry, just not exactly with Aziraphale.

 

"Angel," he tries again, his tone firm, though not unkind.

 

That seems to be the ticket, because moments later, feathery white wings slowly come into being and unfurl before him. He doesn't miss the way the angel's right wing quivers slightly, slower to extend than its partner. If there's one saving gra—one good thing about this, it's that Crowley had managed to yank out the two throwing knives almost immediately. And really, throwing knives ablaze with hellfire? Some of the younger demons these days have some questionable tastes if you ask him. They're demons, not extras at a Criss Angel show.

 

He carefully surveys the damage, one puncture wound close to the base of the angel's wing and another further up by the joint. There's some singing surrounding the wounds, but thankfully it appears he'd managed to pull the daggers out before that hellfire had a chance to do too much damage. Still, it'll need some looking after. Feathers which are typically a pristine white are spattered with red, fading to pink the further away from the wounds they are.

 

This is why he's angry. Because Aziraphale didn't need to protect him but had tried to do so anyway. And for what? He's not something worth protecting, it's the other way around. And it's Crowley's fault. He'd been too stunned by the feeling of Aziraphale's arms thrown around him to process what had been going on. By the time he'd gotten his wits about him, he was already encased in a cocoon of white feathers, already heard the sound of something sharp sinking into flesh, already heard the pained gasp in his ear.

 

Aziraphale wasn't the stupid one. It was him. 

 

"Is it, ah... very bad?" Aziraphale asks.

 

"Could be worse," Crowley hedges. "Hold still for this bit, I've just got to..."

 

The demon passes his hand over the first wound, fingers trailing through feathers and dying the tips of his fingers red. Aziraphale shudders at the contact, back arching as he inhales sharply but otherwise restrains himself from further movement. This is the worst of it, Crowley knows. Drawing out any hellish influence left behind by the fire as one draws venom from the proverbial snake bite.

 

He finishes with the first, the result manifesting as glowing embers in his palm which he tosses into the fire before moving to the next. This one is deeper, bleeding heavier, the surrounding feathers scorched black. Passing his hand over them, he slowly draws the black out, letting it collect along his fingertips like a smear of ink and leaving only the blood behind. Aziraphale twitches, his wings quivering as he smothers a pained noise against his fist.

 

"Almost done here, angel," Crowley assures him.

 

Aziraphale merely nods silently, apparently more invested in keeping himself still and quiet than he is in answering. By the time Crowley is tossing the second handful of embers into the fire, the angel's wings are sagging wearily and Crowley can see the sweat glistening at his temple. 

 

"Just have to clean this out and bandage it proper and then we're done," Crowley advises him, summoning the necessary materials with a snap of his fingers. "But these wounds won't fully heal. You know that."

 

"Mm," Aziraphale hums in response, head bowed as Crowley begins dabbing at the wounds with the cloth in his hand.

 

"So don't do it again," Crowley says. "Don't be stupid."

 

"What is it you want?" Aziraphale asks him tiredly. "An apology?"

 

"No, I don't want an apology. I just don't want you doing something like that again," Crowley replies. "Don't stick your neck out for me, don't try to protect me. I don't need it."

 

"Right. Why would you, since I'm the one who always needs rescuing, after all," Aziraphale mutters.

 

Crowley blows out an aggravated breath. "That's not what I'm getting at."

 

"Isn't it, though?"

 

"No, it isn't," Crowley snaps. "Don't drag me into your pity party, angel. If you're feeling sorry for yourself and you're trying to prove something, that's your problem. Don't try and make it mine."

 

Aziraphale doesn't say anything after that, keeping silent and still as Crowley finishes his work, bandaging both wounds as neatly as he can. The angel doesn't bother hiding his wings afterward, apparently too worn out now to even do that much. Crowley moves to the second cushion and deposits himself there, gaze flickering towards his companion from beneath his shades. Aziraphale looks thoroughly wrung out, his eyelids drooping sleepily as he gazes into the fire. His lips are moving, but Crowley had been too distracted by the fire reflecting in his eyes to hear what was being said.

 

"What was that?" he asks.

 

"I said 'thank you,'" Aziraphale repeats, looking rather mollified. "And... I'm sorry. You were right. It was wrong of me to—to reflect my own insecurities back on you."

 

Crowley merely shrugs one shoulder dismissively, lounging back against the cushion he'd conjured for himself. "You're wrong, in any case. I'm not always the one saving you. You're just... reading too many trashy romance novels or something, I don't know."

 

"...what would romance novels have to do with anything?"

 

Despite the pale pallor his face had taken on, Crowley can still distinctly see the pink rising in the angel's cheeks. In turn, he feels his own face beginning to warm and throws his hands up in agitation.

 

"I don't know—knights and dragons and princesses and the like! You're just reading too much of it and it's making your head go all foggy," Crowley declares. "That's all I'm saying."

 

Aziraphale looks for a moment as though he wants to say something, but the thought is beaten out by a yawn. There's a look if perplexed annoyance on the angel's face, though that's hardly a surprise—he's never been as big a fan of sleep as Crowley.

 

"You'll want to sleep that off, by the way," Crowley says, motioning to the angel's wing.

 

Aziraphale makes a face. "I really would rather not."

 

"Don't really have much of a choice, do you?" Crowley asks, looking at him over the rims of his shades. "Besides, we'll be here a while anyway before they decide to stop sniffing around up there and head home."

 

"I suppose that's true," Aziraphale admits, deflating somewhat at the prospect.

 

They sit in silence for some time, each watching the fire and wondering how long they'll be forced to wait. Through his peripheral vision, Crowley can see the angel gradually giving in to the persistent tug of sleep, though he makes a valiant effort at keeping himself awake. But he can't exactly lie on his back, so it seems that little by little, he's begun to lilt to the side. This creates something of a dilemma for Crowley; any more minor miracles and someone downstairs is going to take notice, so summoning a proper sleeping surface is out of the question. But short of that, he will very soon have an angel on his shoulder, and not in the way one usually does.

 

There's a brief moment when Aziraphale's cheek touches his shoulder and the angel settles there. But the next instant he's jerked himself awake, hands flailing about in apparent embarrassment.

 

"I'm so sorry, my dear, I hadn't realized I was—"

 

"It's fine."

 

Crowley surprises even himself with the gruff proclamation. Aziraphale stares at him oddly and Crowley can't seem to decipher the emotion on his face.

 

"Look, there's not exactly a four poster bed anywhere and I can't have you faceplanting into the fire like an imbecile, so just... get over here," Crowley grumbles. "Just until we can get out of this bloody hole and go home."

 

Crowley prepares himself for an argument that never comes. There's a moment's hesitation before Aziraphale slowly allows himself to lean over into his head is resting on the demon's shoulder. The two of them sit stiffly, silent and unsure of just what to do or say. But as the minutes tick by, the angel's weariness catches up with him and he relaxes against his companion, who in turn settles down himself. Crowley is just beginning to think that this won't be so difficult after all, when he feels as much as he hears Aziraphale's soft, contented sigh.

 

It sends a shiver rushing up his spine, leaving every inch of him tingling. And this was precisely what he was afraid of.

 

"Alright?" comes the angel's sleepy mumble.

 

"Fine," says Crowley, a little too quickly.

 

"That's the only reason I did it," Aziraphale murmurs a moment later. "I wasn't thinking about the hellfire just... that he was attacking you and I... I don't want that. I know it was stupid but..."

 

"I shouldn't have called you stupid," Crowley admits. "I don't think you're stupid. I just think it's stupid to get hurt for my sake."

 

"Why?"

 

"I'm a demon. You're not supposed to go around saving demons. We're not meant to be saved."

 

"Now who's being stupid?"

 

Crowley snorts at the angel's slurred question. He can barely keep himself awake, probably has no idea what he's even saying right now. Then out of the blue, Aziraphale trembles against his side... but not in pain.

 

"You know, maybe we're both stupid, then," the angel mumbles, giggling like a windchime.

 

But it seems that's his last hurrah. Not even a minute after his giggling has trickled to a stop, Aziraphale goes out like a light, snoring softly into Crowley's shoulder. The demon nods his head thoughtfully.

 

"Yeah, I'd say that's about right."

Chapter Text

A little known fact: heaven was responsible for the creation of ducks, but hell was responsible for their personalities. Typically Crowley found this good for a laugh, but right this moment he can't help but feel the threat of karma crawling up his spine.

 

Crowley is on a picnic. More specifically, he is on a picnic with Aziraphale in St. James Park. Crowley has finally smoothed the blanket (a ridiculous tartan pattern, because what else would it be) out to his satisfaction after ten minutes of fussing and the angel's insistence that, really, it needn't be perfect.

 

Anything less than perfect just won't do for Crowley though. Not for this. Not for this tentative New Thing between them that is essentially the same as their Old Thing but is still markedly more involved. Neither of them had really said... anything specific. In their typical fashion they skirted around what they both wished to say without actually managing to say it and still somehow leaving the conversation with an understanding that things would be Different now.

 

He supposes things change on principle when one averts the apocalypse.

 

"Are you certain you're alright?" Aziraphale asks, squeezing the handle of the picnic basket between both his hands. Crowley thinks if he squeezes any harder it'll splinter. "You know, you didn't have to agree to a picnic just because I suggested it."

 

"I didn't," Crowley says as he plops down on the blanket.

 

He did.

 

But he'd agree to nearly anything Aziraphale suggests if it means an excuse to be near the angel. Not that a picnic is such a terrible thing, in theory. It's just that he hasn't been able to shake the feeling of being followed. Watched. Hunted?

 

"Do the ducks usually wander this far into the park?" Crowley wonders aloud, suddenly noticing just how many seem to be waddling around them.

 

"Well they're hardly confined to the pond," Aziraphale says, retrieving the bottle of wine and two glasses he'd packed in the basket. "I suspect they're free to go wherever they choose."

 

"...nnnnnnyeah," Crowley agrees reluctantly.

 

Maybe they are free to go where they like, but in his opinion that's even less reason to trust the little buggers. He narrows his eyes as the angel hands him a glass of wine, listening to the soft quacks growing in number and volume as Aziraphale retrieves a packet of crackers. There's a predatory glint in all those soulless, beady little eyes, he swears.

 

"You're quite certain that nothing is bothering you?" Aziraphale asks, threatening to turn the pack of crackers to breadcrumbs with his anxious hands.

 

"Would you stop your fretting?" Crowley replies, sipping from his glass. "If I didn't want to be here, I wouldn't be."

 

"I suppose that's true," Aziraphale muses. He fiddles with the package, taking his time opening it. "I'm projecting, aren't I?"

 

"Projecting?" Crowley echoes curiously.

 

"Well, I mean, assuming you're as anxious as I am by... er... all of this," Aziraphale admits.

 

A light flush rises on his cheeks and Crowley catches his meaning. All of this. This thing between them that they've acknowledged but managed to neither define nor speak of in any explicit terms. Feathery threat forgotten for the moment, he leans in just enough to bump shoulders with the angel.

 

"Aziraphale. Relax," Crowley says. "It's just us. Just like always, yeah?"

 

If anything that only serves the fluster Aziraphale further, who is now wrinkling the pack of crackers in earnest.

 

"Of course," he answers, clearing his throat. "Thank you. For being patient with me. For always being patient with me."

 

Crowley rolls his eyes. "Shut up."

 

That earns him a soft laugh and he feels some of the nervous tension leave the air. It's easy to play cool when the angel can't tell that his heart is beating fit to burst out his chest.

 

"It's funny," Aziraphale says, slowly opening the package in his hands.

 

"What's funny?"

 

"You'd think what with me being an angel it would be easier to say—"

 

Crowley has no idea what it is the angel was going to say, because the package of crackers has been opened. Normally this wouldn't be something you would blink twice at. But in this case, the sound has the same effect as chum dropped in shark infested waters. Over the sound of loud quacking and flapping wings, Crowley can still hear Aziraphale's high pitched shriek as the ducks descend upon them.

 

He knew the little bastards were up to something. But his vindication is short lived as he finds himself swinging their picnic basket in an attempt to disperse the ducks. There's an offended gasp from someone nearby as he punts one of the feathery bêtes noires back to the watery pit it came from, but Crowley's never been one to care about the opinions of Joe Public and he's not about to start now.

 

At last, admitting to himself that he's fighting a losing battle, the demon grabs his companion by the arm and hauls him off, the ridiculous tartan patterned blanket trailing behind them like a flag of surrender. They don't stop until they've reached the Bentley, hurriedly locking themselves inside. The two huff and puff inside the car, from either the run or a newfound case of anatidaephobia. Or both.

 

(It's possible that Crowley jumps, just a little, when one of the little blighters lands on the hood of the Bentley. Aziraphale may or may not scream when it seemingly combusts of its own accord in an explosion of feathers. Neither party will admit to these.)

 

"What was it that was supposed to be easy for you to say?" Crowley asks, once he's got enough of his breath back to speak.

 

"I..."

 

Aziraphale stares back at him, hazel eyes wide as he catches his breath. There's wine soaked into his clothes, he's covered in cracker crumbs and there are duck feathers stuck on his jacket and in his curly hair. 

 

He looks ridiculous.

 

But he looks beautiful, too.

 

"I love you," he blurts breathlessly.

 

Yes, he's ridiculous. But beautiful, too.

 

Chapter Text

 

"Hello, Aziraphale."

 

While it is not altogether strange for Aziraphale to have visitors in his shop—despite how difficult he makes it for them—this one, in particular, is odd. Odd, and a bit alarming.

 

When he and Crowley had pulled their little swapping stunt some months ago, they hadn't been sure just how long they would be left alone. Apparently "until right now" is his answer. The young woman before him looks to him eagerly, a smile stretching her tawny, freckled face. She's dressed smartly but comfortably, her dark, curly hair sporting warm highlights. Very clearly from Upstairs, though he can't for the life of him say he's ever seen her before.

 

"Please keep your voice down!" Aziraphale hisses, glancing around and hoping no other customers are within earshot. "And watch what you call me here."

 

He never uses his actual name if he can help it and isn't about to start now. The shop is called "A.Z. Fell & Co." for a reason.

 

"Oh!" the woman exclaims softly. She leans towards him conspiratorily, her voice pitched low. "Mr. Aziraphale."

 

"Mister...? No, I meant—Nevermind, just—follow me to the back room, please," Aziraphale sighs, ushering her along.

 

Frankly, he's surprised he's not more, well... panicked. Flat out terrified. Frightened beyond reason. He's surprised to find he is none of those things. In fact, he's feeling rather calm at the moment, despite his initial shock. Perhaps it's all his time spent with Crowley getting to him or perhaps it's the fact that it isn't Gabriel himself come for a visit, but he feels...

 

Oh.

 

Oh, he doesn't know why he's feeling that.

 

"I hope you don't mind me saying so before we begin," the woman says as he directs her to a seat, "but it's truly an honor—I mean I've always—it's not as though I haven't seen you before—it's just that in person—well... wow."

 

Overabundant joy and love. He can feel it radiating off of her like heat from a bonfire. Which is... odd. Odd, and alarming.

 

"Er... you seem to have me at a disadvantage," Aziraphale notes, wanting to get this strange encounter over with.

 

"Oh! Yes!" the woman exclaims, jumping to her feet once again. She thrusts a hand out toward him in a motion he can only describe as violently pleasant. "Azephyr, member of the Choir of Angels and Seventh Trumpet. Ah—temporarily reassigned here to Earth."

 

"A pleasure, I'm sure," Aziraphale says, shaking her hand with a lopsided smile. "...what exactly is the reason for your visit?"

 

"To inform you that I'll be monitoring you and submitting my observations as reports per Gabriel's orders," Azephyr answers brightly.

 

Aziraphale swallows thickly. Whatever ease he'd walked into this room with is rapidly disappearing. Monitoring? Reporting? Gabriel? He may not know the specifics yet but that's enough to sound alarm bells in his head. They always assumed their two sides would come for them in some shape or form, but what exactly is this?

 

Perhaps she can read the consternation on his face because Azephyr quickly waves her hands in front of her.

 

"Oh, no, don't misunderstand, please," she asks him. "I know I'm meant to report on everything you and Mr. Crowley do—"

 

"And Crowley?"

 

"—but I'm not, um... well..." Azephyr mumbles, her enthusiasm suddenly transforming into a sort of embarrassed hesitation. "I mean, I'm sure you already know, obviously, but a lot of the younger angels think you're really cool and—"

 

"Cool?" Aziraphale nearly chokes on the word. "Me?"

 

"In fact, actually, you see, I think you may have been right, you know... in the whole, ehm... the Great Plan not necessarily being the Ineffable Plan. For one thing, I can tell you the angelic choir was nowhere near ready. Now, it's not my place to be pointing any fingers, but between you and me, the second sopranos were hardly pulling their weight and Fourth Trumpet has been sounding a little flat these past three centuries. And-And could you imagine? Armageddon and the angelic choir is just... just... just alright?" She laughs anxiously. "You can't have an alright angelic choir for the end of the world. And the trumpets...! No. No, no, so... Ah... I will be doing my job and monitoring you—but!—I'm... Well, I'm not entirely inflexible, I mean everyone deserves second chances after all, so... But I'm not soft either! No. Absolutely not. So just... don't... make me write a bad report. Um... please."

 

Aziraphale doesn't know what to say. Really. How exactly does one react to this sort of thing? It's not as though he can just thank her for a lovely visit, tell her to keep in touch and to pop by for tea and scones next week. Then again, he can't exactly picture telling her to go back where she came from and to inform Gabriel he can take his orders and shove them up his—

 

"Angel! Quick word if you don't mind?"

 

Breathing out a sigh of relief, Aziraphale doesn't think he's ever been so happy to see Crowley standing in his doorway. Well, no, that's not entirely true, there have been several times where—uh, but that's beside the point. In any case, he's thankful the demon had decided to slink in when he did.

 

"Mr. Crowley!"

 

Azephyr as already jumping out of her seat, aggressively shaking the demon's hand and happily introducing herself. Crowley looks in Aziraphale's direction, eyebrows rising nearly to his hairline. Aziraphale shrugs helplessly.

 

"—and it's a sincere pleasure to be working with you," the other angel concludes, her tone bright and merry.

 

"Pleasure, yeah, right—listen, I need to borrow some of Aziraphale's time here," Crowley replies smoothly. "You understand."

 

"Of course," Azephyr says amenably. She digs into her jacket pocket, producing a business card for each of them. "On this card, you'll find my address as well as a phone number I can be reached at. And below that, you will find directions on who to contact with any questions, concerns or suggestions regarding my job performance."

 

The angel looks at the pristine white card in his hand. Questions? He has questions, alright. But he's not likely to get any answers here. "Ah... Thank you, er... W-Why don't I just see you out, then?"

 

With that, Aziraphale follows her to the front of the shop with Crowley in tow to show her out. Finding no other customers within, he quickly flips the sign from OPEN to CLOSED just as soon as the door has closed behind her and peers out the window alongside his demonic companion. Azephyr waves happily at them through the glass as she retrieves a bicycle chained up beside the shop.

 

"Bit of a surprise, isn't it?" Crowley observes. "Monitoring and reporting and all that."

 

The angel turns his head so quickly he nearly gets whiplash. "How did you know about that? Did you—"

 

"Got one, too," Crowley confirms. "Though mine's from Downstairs, accordingly. Uh... Heizer. Yeah, that was it."

 

"Heizer?" Aziraphale echoes with a frown, the name strikingly familiar.

 

Apparently, Crowley can detect that minuscule trace of familiarity in his voice because he looks to the angel with sudden sharpness. "Do you know her?"

 

"Well, I wouldn't exactly say I know her, more like we—"

 

"I can't believe you're... fraternizing with other demons behind my back," Crowley declares.

 

"Fraternizing?" Aziraphale repeats, his tone offended. "Crowley, I'm not fraternizing with anyone. We ran into each other once or twice in the late nineteenth century. Which you slept through most of if you'll recall."

 

"Damn good sleep it was, too," Crowley affirms. He still watches his partner a tad warily. "So you're not... seeing anyone else?"

 

Aziraphale huffs impatiently. "The only one I'm seeing is you, my dear, don't be ridiculous."

 

Crowley might grumble about it a little but the arm snaking around the angel's waist tells him the demon isn't really upset. He has his jealous moments, Aziraphale's come to find since they'd ended six thousand years of mutual pining and just gotten together already. Aziraphale's found he's had a moment or two himself. Not becoming of an angel, but he supposes he's not exactly completely an angel anymore. They're Them.

 

...not The Them, but rather just Them.

 

"Do you suppose we should worry about this?" Aziraphale asks.

 

Crowley watches Azephyr pedal her bicycle away from the shop. Approximately three seconds after she enters the street, he then watches her get run over by a car.

 

"Mmmmnnnyeah, no, I think it'll be fine," Crowley decides.

 


 

 

"Well, at least she was alright," Aziraphale muses, looking into his wine glass.

 

"Never seen anyone apologize to the car that hit them, but if that's your definition of alright..." Crowley says. He slouches ever further as they continue to drink, subsequently bringing Aziraphale with him as they fall further and further into the depths of the comfortable sofa in Aziraphale's flat. "And besides, you probably should've been rooting for her to be discorporated."

 

"Crowley," Aziraphale admonishes, looking up from where he's tucked under the demon's arm. "That's terrible."

 

"I try."

 

Aziraphale rolls his eyes at the demon's grin. "Oh, you know what I meant."

 

Crowley reaches for the bottle and proceeds to top off both their glasses. The fact of the matter is, Heaven and Hell are once more putting them under the microscope. Crowley can't claim to know what they have up their sleeves or what they hope to gain by having them monitored, but it's nothing good.

 

"She's basically your probation officer, angel," Crowley reminds him. "Neither of those two are here to make friends."

 

"...she didn't seem so very awful," Aziraphale mutters into his glass.

 

Crowley casts a knowing eye over him. "What did she say?"

 

"I'm just saying that she seemed like a very nice young woman and I'm sure she doesn't mean us any harm," Aziraphale asserts primly.

 

"You don't always mean the things you do," Crowley argues.

 

The angel's nose wrinkles in distaste; namely meaning that Crowley has made his point. And as much as Aziraphale may not like it, he's entirely correct. It's simply that the angel still has a difficult time accepting that anyone from Upstairs would be so willfully ill-intended. Granted, it's easier to believe after Crowley had recounted to him how Gabriel had expected him to cheerfully walk into hellfire and destroy himself as though it were his privilege and duty to do so. No trial, no chance to explain himself. Hell had at least given Crowley that much—or at the very least the illusion of a trial. 

 

He hadn't sensed any ill will from this monitor, this Azephyr, as she called herself. But he's learning that may not mean what he thinks it means, as Crowley had just now pointed out. After all, how many times had Aziraphale himself gone along and done what he thought was the right thing and managed to cause someone harm anyway? All of these things are true. But it doesn't stop him from wanting to believe in the goodness of people.

 

"Did you know," Aziraphale says after several more drinks, with an inebriated and rather proud smile on his face, "that the younger angels think I'm cool?"

 

Crowley squints down at him, eyes as gold as coins measuring him through a haze of alcohol. "They think you're what?"

 

"They think I'm cool," Aziraphale repeats.

 

Crowley snorts a laugh. "I wonder what's passing for cool in Heaven these days, then."

 

Aziraphale opens his mouth to answer, but Crowley cuts him off, pressing a finger to the angel's lips.

 

"No. Cross that. Don't answer that," he decides. "I don't want to know."

 

"Oh, just because you're not the cool one for once," Aziraphale laughs, grabbing his hand and shoving it away.

 

"I'm the cool one always."

 

Aziraphale reaches up and pats him indulgently on the cheek. "Of course you are, my dear."

 

Undoubtedly Crowley caught the slight jab at his character but opted not to dwell on it. It appears he has other things in mind. Sitting up to place his empty glass on the coffee table brings Aziraphale with him, and as soon as the demon's hands are empty, he makes sure to find something else to occupy them with.

 

Aziraphale's experience in this arena is rather new but he considers himself nothing if not a quick study. It hadn't been terribly difficult to learn to mimic the way Crowley's lips pressed to his or the way his hands moved. It hadn't been difficult to learn the things the demon enjoyed, which places to touch or bite or... Well, he's still learning, but he approaches it with as much gusto as an angel truly guilty of indulgence can.

 

Presently, Crowley has one hand at the back of the angel's neck, his other hand busy untying Aziraphale's bowtie. Aziraphale chuckles against his lips, warm and full of good humor.

 

"You know we are being monitored now," the angel points out. Even as he says this, he makes no effort to stop his partner, his own hands busy pushing the jacket off the demon's shoulders. 

 

Crowley takes the angel's lower lip between his teeth, clever fingers moving to unbutton his waistcoat. "Then it's a rather good thing I've got something of an exhibition kink."

 


 

 

Outside the book shop, night has fallen and the demon Heizer watches as the angel Azephyr records her observations about the shop in a tidy scrawl along the pages of her notebook. Unable to help herself, Heizer leans over the angel's shoulder with a toothy grin.

 

"You know they're fucking, right?"

 

Several hours later, tucked against each other in bed and feeling quite satisfied, Aziraphale will ask if Crowley had heard a scream from outside earlier. After rather proudly answering that the only screaming he'd heard had come from their bedroom, Crowley will insist it had just been the angel's imagination.

 

Aziraphale privately disagrees but keeps that to himself. 

 

After all, arguing over it now just wouldn't be the cool thing to do.

Chapter Text

 

When Adam had reset the world, he'd done so in a way that meant most things had gone back to the way they were before. Most things.

 

One very noticeable difference was that Mr. and Mrs. Young seemed to be under the impression that a certain angel and demon were their son's godfathers. You see, Adam had thought that continuing to have them about would be quite useful—or at the very least entertaining—but that perhaps his parents would be alarmed if he were suddenly in the company of two strange adult men. So he fixed it.

 

Crowley had admittedly been a bit perturbed to find that Mr. Young now believed him to be an old school chum with an incredibly rare eye condition. He was always wanting to talk about things like whether Crowley had watched the football game or “the old days.” Crowley had to bite his tongue more than once when he was tempted to tell Mr. Young that his old days and Crowley’s old days were not even remotely the same old days. But he got used to it. Eventually. However, when Crowley and Aziraphale had attempted to explain to Adam that they were not, in fact, a happy couple as he had made his parents believe, the boy had merely shrugged and told them that he was pretty sure they were.

 

Interestingly enough, with a little time, he wound up being right about that.

 

In any case, today is an exciting day for Adam. Today is the first day of a week-long stay with his “godfathers” in a cabin they'd rented away from the city. And today they'd gone to the beach.

 

Aziraphale had immediately begun to establish ground rules: Adam would need sunscreen, he would need to return every two hours for reapplication, he was to wait thirty minutes after eating before swimming, he was not to leave their line of sight, he was not to talk to strangers... Adam had made a beeline for the ocean long before the angel could finish. 

 

"Why do I even bother?" Aziraphale sighs.

 

"He'll be fine," Crowley declares, watching Dog hurry towards the waves after his master. "Probably just will the sun not to burn him or something."

 

"He can't just use his powers for everything," Aziraphale protests, spreading their blanket on the sand by the rocks.

 

"And he's not, really," Crowley says, driving the pole of their umbrella into the ground. He watches the angel smooth the blanket out and place weights on the corners to keep the breeze from lifting it. He grins. "The sunhat is cute, by the way."

 

Aziraphale turns to glare at him from beneath the brim of the floppy sunhat in question. "Don't tease."

 

"Who says I'm teasing?" Crowley asks.

 

It's a fair assumption, though. Getting Aziraphale to the beach had taken some doing. It wasn't that the angel disliked nature, it's just that the beach was... well, he just felt rather uncomfortable with all the necessary steps with going there. Adam had reasonably pointed out that Aziraphale couldn’t expect to go to the beach in his usual attire and while this had made sense to the angel, it hadn't made him like the idea any more. 

 

After twenty minutes of debate, Adam and Crowley had finally managed to convince him to put on swimming trunks. Only when he had finally miracled up a pair, they looked as though they had been ripped from the early 20th century. It had taken another thirty minutes to convince him to come out of the bathroom and that they were sorry they'd laughed.

 

"I think it's an interesting change of pace, all this," Crowley says, nodding towards where Adam is jumping into the waves.

 

"Interesting is a good word for it," Aziraphale agrees, settling on the blanket and pulling out a book. “If you told me a year ago I would be taking the Antichrist to the beach on holiday, I’d’ve thought you were mad.”

 

“Well, that makes two of us,” Crowley says, flopping onto the blanket beside him. “Though in all fairness, I think the ‘mad’ bit might still apply to both of us.”

 

Aziraphale makes a face that clearly says he can’t disagree. Reaching into their basket and nudging aside a few water bottles, Crowley retrieves the bottle of sunscreen the angel had packed and taps his open book with it.

 

“Lube me up?” he asks with a sly smile.

 

Well, Aziraphale can hardly say ‘no’ to that.

 


 

 

After splashing about in the waves had become tiresome and he had been pinched in the nose by an evil, evil crab–that he was very innocently inspecting, mind you–Dog retired to the shade of the umbrella to curl up beside Aziraphale and have himself a short nap. His master was busy making a sand castle with Crowley and so Dog felt he would be well looked after in the short span of time that Dog’s eyes were not on him.

 

“Is he going to stay under that umbrella all day?” Adam asks, packing sand into a pail. He could simply will a sandcastle into existence but that’s hardly any fun, really.

 

“In all likelihood,” Crowley tells him, decorating the outer wall with seashells. “He’s a bit fussy, as you may have noticed.”

 

“And you’re not,” Adam says, looking the demon dead in the eye.

 

“No, I’m particular,” Crowley corrects him. “There’s a difference. You’ll understand when you’re older.”

 

“Just like how I’ll start to like girls?” Adam says with a suspicious air.

 

“Yeah, well... Girls. Boys. Both. Neither,” Crowley says, waving a small plastic shovel as he talks. “Doesn’t matter, really. Humans tend to be narrow-minded about all that business anyway.”

 

Then again, humans can’t will their genitals in and out of existence and have a relatively short shelf-life compared to a demon so that may account for some of it. 

 

“Alright, water break.”

 

Crowley looks up to find water bottles being shoved in both their faces by Aziraphale, who has finally emerged from beneath the safety of his umbrella. Technically Crowley doesn’t need a water break, but being human, Adam does. The two of them tended to mirror his needs in regards to eating, drinking and resting—both because they didn’t want him to feel odd doing these things on his own and because they just enjoyed doing them anyway.

 

Rather than retreat back to the blanket after making his delivery, Aziraphale crouches beside them and takes in their handiwork. Crowley sips from his water bottle slowly as he watches the angel gradually realize what it is they’re building.

 

“This is an interesting choice,” Aziraphale hums.

 

“Crowley says it's what it used to look like,” Adam comments. "Kind of smaller than I thought it would be."

 

Aziraphale looks to the sand and stone and seashells artfully placed together in an imitation of Eden. To Crowley’s surprise, he smiles. “You know, I used to be in charge of this part. And over here is where Crowley and I met. Though, he was Crawly back then.”

 

Adam snorts a laugh. “Crawly?”

 

“I was a snake and Hell has no imagination,” Crowley says in his defense. “Neither of those things are my fault.”

 

"Still a dumb name," Adam declares.

 

"Why do you suppose I changed it?" Crowley asks, flicking a seashell at the boy.

 

"Was Crawly always your name?" 

 

Aziraphale raises his eyebrows at the question, watching as Adam packs on more sand to the southern wall. It's an... interesting question. The boy had asked it in a way that leads the angel to believe he already knows the answer. Crowley sucks in a breath through his teeth, studying the shells in his hand.

 

"No, it wasn't," the demon answers.

 

"What was your name before?" Adam asks, looking up at the demon from beneath a mop of unruly chestnut hair.

 

It's a question that not even Aziraphale knows the answer to. Crowley doesn't like to talk about... Before. Before the Fall. Before the War. And Aziraphale had never felt comfortable pushing the subject with him, no matter how much it seemed to bother him or how close they may have become. Aziraphale can't help but feel as though a cloud has just appeared on the horizon of an otherwise perfect day. The silence stretches on between the three of them, the sound of the waves crashing against the shore and the cry of the gulls above them filling the void. 

 

"You know what? I'll tell you something," Crowley says suddenly.

 

Aziraphale can hardly believe his ears. He's really going to say? Right now? Right here?

 

"This beach trip needs ice lollies!" Crowley shouts, jumping to his feet.

 

Ah. Of course. Aziraphale can't help but feel a bit disappointed as Crowley flicks the brim of his hat and asks them each what flavor they'd like. The angel sighs as he watches his partner walking alone up the beach under the guise of getting them all a treat.

 

"I don't understand why it's a big deal," Adam says. "It's just a name."

 

"Well, it is and it isn't," Aziraphale corrects him. "Crowley's old name—his first name—isn't something he likes to talk about. Not even I know what it is."

 

"Why wouldn't he tell you?" Adam asks, standing up and brushing sand off his trunks. "I thought he'd tell you everything."

 

"I wish it were so simple," Aziraphale says, rising to follow the boy back to the blanket. "But that name is from a time that most of us don't discuss. It was before the War that divided Heaven and Hell. Before your fath—before Lucifer was cast out and his followers with him."

 

"So Crowley was one of his followers," Adam surmises. He lies on his side beside Dog, scratching the sleeping hellhound's ears. "And he was kicked out with him."

 

Aziraphale sits beneath the umbrella, pulling off his hat and running a hand through his curly hair. "As I said, it's not all so simple. I wouldn't call Crowley one of Lucifer's followers, exactly, more like... well, more like he was just curious. Lucifer presented questions and ideas that most of us had never even considered and on some level that appealed to Crowley."

 

"It's a bit stupid to kick people out just for asking questions," Adam says. "I mean, you gave away a flaming sword and you got to stay."

"Yes—um... well," Aziraphale says, clearing his throat.

 

"And anyway, if we did that all the time then we'd all end up alone eventually, don't you think?"

 

Aziraphale can't really argue with his logic. But it's different for humans than it is for them. Humans have the ability to choose—who they are and what they do. Angels and demons are bound by their nature to be just that.

 

"In any case," Aziraphale says, moving the conversation along, "what Crowley has told me is that his Fall was gradual. Until one day it just... happened. What you need to understand, Adam, is that when an angel falls, it's painful. To Fall is to have God's presence ripped out of you. It's been said to be unbearable and I can only pray that I never have to experience it myself. Which is why I haven't ever tried to force Crowley to talk to me; because I can empathize, but never truly understand. Though, if he ever wishes to discuss it, he knows that I'll listen. I've made certain of that much at least."

 

Adam hums thoughtfully, rolling onto his back and staring up at the cloudless sky. For a few moments, he says nothing more and Aziraphale thinks that's the end of it.

 

"I don't think I can fix that," Adam admits. "I tried it just now but it felt sort of like the time I rode my bicycle into the side of my dad's car."

 

Aziraphale feels an unexpected rush of fondness at his words. He had always assumed that the Antichrist would be, well... rather hellish. But Adam has proven himself to be just as complex as any other human. And in that complexity, Aziraphale has seen a genuine wish to make things better for others—even if his methods aren't always the best choice.

 

The angel had quite liked the idea when Crowley had posed it some twelve or so years ago; the two of them being godfathers. But finding themselves actually playing the role now, Aziraphale is even more taken with it than he had thought he would be. There's something truly rewarding in directly impacting someone's growth, rather than the subtle, peripheral work he's used to undertaking with the human race. Even a mere year after they had first met him, Adam already seems to have changed and grown into another version of himself. He'll keep on growing and changing, just the way all humans do, but in a way that is decidedly different. Special.

 

"Well, there are certain things which are beyond even your control. But it was good of you to try," Aziraphale assures him with a smile. Seeing Crowley making his return trip across the beach, he knows it's time to put the matter to rest. For now, anyway. "Let's save the rest of this conversation for another time, shall we?"

 

Adam sits up, pursing his lips as he studies the angel sitting beside him. For a brief moment, Aziraphale wonders if he's not going to drop the matter so easily. But the Antichrist seems to deem this a wise decision and dips his head in a form nod. Aziraphale knows this won't be the end of this particular conversation, but it's best reserved, as he'd said, for another time.

 

After all, they have plenty of it.

 

Chapter Text

As it turns out, not actually doing much to avert the apocalypse can really take it out of you.

 

Well, that isn't an entirely accurate statement, Crowley muses as he and Aziraphale ride the bus back to his London home. The two of them had done quite a bit;i just that the things they'd done hadn't had very much to do with the world not ending. That had mostly been Adam's doing.

 

But driving his flaming Bentley—may she rest in peace—to Tadfield through sheer will and then taking himself, Aziraphale and Adam out of time for a little chat had been... draining. He slouches in his seat, arms folded over his chest and legs splayed out as far as the seats' limited foot room will allow. Willing the bus to detour to London is about as much as he has left in him, he knows, and the thought of collapsing in his bed as soon as possible remains a promising reward.

 

The demon glances to the angel sitting beside him. Aziraphale's hands are folded in his lap, his legs crossed at the ankle and tucked beneath his seat. Presently his head is bowed and his eyes closed as though in prayer, but as the bus is jostled by a pothole, he quickly looks up, alarmed, before realizing nothing is amiss and settling back once more. His eyes remain open but stare ahead of him with that lack of focus that denotes a certain level of exhaustion.

 

He'd hardly had an easy time of things either. Being discorporated, projecting himself to Crowley in the pub, possessing Madame Tracey—which he had apologized profusely for—and being quite suddenly shoved into a new vessel... Not any more a walk in the park than Crowley himself has had.

 

But it's over. For now. At least until Heaven and Hell sort their paperwork and do the numbers and figure out just how the two of them should be made to answer for this. However, as the bus comes to a stop outside his flat, thoughts of sleep push all of that to the back of his mind to be examined later.

 

"Thank you for this," Aziraphale sighs as Crowley lets them in.

 

"Shut up," Crowley snorts.

 

"It needed to be said," Aziraphale argues.

 

"No, it needn't," Crowley declares with some annoyance, leading the angel through his living room and towards the bedroom. "Not with me."

 

"...not anymore, you mean," Aziraphale says, stifling a yawn.

 

Never.

 

Aziraphale never needed to thank him for anything.

 

He's always spun it as being to avoid trouble with management, but really, he'd never wanted Aziraphale thanking him for his own reasons. Because Crowley never did anything for the angel with the expectation of being thanked. He did it because...

 

"Right," Crowley agrees. He motions into the bedroom. "You take the bed."

 

Aziraphale stops short, standing opposite him outside the bedroom door. "And where will you be sleeping?"

 

"The oven," Crowley answers, his voice dripping with sarcasm. "The sofa, obviously."

 

Aziraphale frowns as he looks first to the bed and then Crowley. "I'm not taking your bed.

 

"Don't argue with me, angel," Crowley sighs. "Just take the sodding bed."

 

"I'm not arguing with you," Aziraphale says with a touch of annoyance. "I was merely going to suggest that since you seem to have purchased the largest bed known to mankind, there's no reason why you should sleep on the sofa."

 

Crowley knows he's staring. He knows, but it doesn't stop him from doing so. "...you want to share the bed."

 

The bald statement brings a hint of a flush to the angel's face. He shifts from foot to foot, tugging at his fingers in an anxious tic that Crowley is long familiar with. He'd seemed confident suggesting it just a moment ago and Crowley wonders if there was something in the way he'd just spoken that had done something to change that.

 

"Well... I just thought it seemed a bit ridiculous not to," Aziraphale says, his gaze cutting away from Crowley's eyes. "Of course, I wouldn't want to make you uncomfortable, so please don't—"

 

"It doesn't make me uncomfortable," Crowley says, a little too quickly. He kicks himself for that. If he sounds too eager, Aziraphale might be the one scared away. "I just thought you might like some privacy or something. Trying to be a proper host and all that."

 

Aziraphale's eyes return to him, looking at him in a way that leaves the demon feeling naked. As though he isn't even wearing his sunglasses and the angel is staring him straight in the eye. His body language remains anxious—shy, even—but Aziraphale's eyes are as steady as his words.

 

"Then come to bed with me."

 

If Crowley didn't know any better, he could swear his counterpart knew exactly what he was saying. But of course, he doesn't truly mean it that way. Still, this is all a bit more forward than Crowley had been expecting.

 

"The bed is large enough that we likely won't even come close to touching one another," Aziraphale proceeds to say, not impeded by Crowley's lack of response. "At this point we've shared so many things that a bed doesn't seem all that out of the question. And if I'm being frank, well, my dear, I would prefer to have you close by just now."

 

Stay with me.

 

Crowley can damn near hear the words.

 

"Yeah," he says, his mouth dry. "Alright."

 

Aziraphale appears to relax considerably, shoulders losing their tension and his hands coming to rest at his sides. There's a hint of a smile on his face as Crowley ushers him in and the demon can't help but feel a bit strange. This is all... just strange. It's been a strange week. This is just the odd little cherry on top, he supposes.

 

There isn't even so much as a warning from Aziraphale before the angel lazily waves a hand, divesting them both of their clothing and conjuring up matching sets of tartan pajamas in their place. Crowley holds his arms out and looks down to inspect himself before pinning the angel with a stare.

 

"Really?" he says flatly.

 

Aziraphale shrugs tiredly. "I was trying to do you a favor but go ahead and waste your energy changing it, if you like."

 

"I'm not going to, I just think you did it on purpose," Crowley clarifies, pulling back the duvet.

 

Although Aziraphale doesn't answer him, the smile he's struggling to hide says more than enough. They both slip beneath the duvet on opposite sides of the bed, taking a few moments to make themselves comfortable. It seems to take Aziraphale just a tad longer than Crowley but then he was never really one for sleep in the first place. Necessity, though, sometimes wins out.

 

"...do we say goodnight?" Aziraphale asks.

 

"I suppose since you've decided to bring it up we have to."

 

"Well I don't know; you're the one with all the sleep experience."

 

"Fine, fine. Goodnight."

 

"Goodnight."

 

And that should be the end of it. Crowley should be sleeping in seconds flat. But instead, he's lying in bed, eyes closed, listening to the sound of the angel beside him breathing. He's not sure how many minutes pass before he hears Aziraphale's breaths grow deep and even, their slow cadence telling Crowley that the one they're coming from is deep asleep.

 

He can't help but look. This is something unprecedented for them and something Aziraphale had been the one to suggest, at that. It's nearly the closest they've ever been. He's never seen the angel sleep; he's seen him weary, he's seen him hurt, he's seen him any number of things, but never sleeping. Not once in these six thousand years.

 

It's disgustingly clichéd to say Aziraphale looks angelic, but, well... he does. It's so easy for Crowley to stare at the blonde curls against the dark of his pillowcase, catching slivers of moonlight through the blinds that make them glow. It's so easy to stare at his lashes fanned out against rounded cheeks and an expression more relaxed that Crowley can nearly ever recall. 

 

It's so difficult to only stare.

 

But that's all he's ever done. Stared and waited and hoped. Wondered. And he supposes he'll just have to wonder still.

 


 

When Crowley wake, he knows immediately that he's not where he was last night. Well... Rather, he's in his bed, but it appears he's migrated in the night. He feels his heart leap into his throat when he realizes he's very neatly tucked beneath Aziraphale's chin, his arms around the angel and their legs tangled together. What's worse is the feeling of Aziraphale's arms around him, soft breaths tickling the top of his head.

 

He can't move.

 

Aziraphale is still asleep. Moving would surely wake him. Which means he's just going to have to lie here until the angel does wake. Well, there are certainly worse things in the world, he decides. He'll just stay still until Aziraphale wakes, then pretend to be fast asleep to avoid any embarrassment for either of them. Perfect plan.

 

Aziraphale smells different. That's one of the first things he notices. Although, it's not different so much as it is new. Maybe new isn't exactly the best word for it, but... The typically muted scent of ozone is much sharper and Crowley finds himself missing the smell of paper and ink that usually accompanies the angel, mingled with the smell of something sweet. 

 

He has to remind himself that this body technically is new. It's almost as though Aziraphale hasn't had time to properly settle in it yet and so it lacks some of its... familiarity. 

 

But that's fine. It's fine when Crowley realizes with a start that he doesn't remember the last time he'd been held like this. Even if it just happens to have occurred by mistake while they were sleeping, Aziraphale's hold on him is warm and secure, as though he's conscious of what he's doing.

 

"If you don't mind... could we discuss this later? I don't quite feel like waking up yet."

 

The sleepy mumble startles him to full wakefulness... but he doesn't pull away. Nor does Aziraphale push him. They simply continue to be, just as they are.

 

"That was unexpected," Crowley declares.

 

"When I woke, I wasn't sure what to make of it either, but it felt... fine," Aziraphale murmurs. "Do you...?"

 

"Yeah," Crowley agrees, swallowing thickly. "Me, too."

 

There's a quiet hum into his hair, chased by a soft sigh, and Crowley feels himself going boneless as fingers gently run across his scalp. And then a thought hits him.

 

"You've been awake this whole time, haven't you, you bastard?" Crowley grumbles into the angel's pajama top.

 

"Shh."

 

They will definitely be discussing this later and they will most definitely be discussing just how long Aziraphale planned to let him act the fool. But talk is for later. For now, this is will do just fine.

Chapter Text

"Crowley. I... I need to speak to you. Please. Will you come?"

 

Nothing could have made him move faster. When Aziraphale had phoned him in the middle of the night, he'd sounded troubled when he'd asked him over. Given that they had rather recently performed their little body swapping act to avoid punishment for the Notpocalypse, it's enough to make Crowley worry. Had the angel heard something from Heaven? Should he expect the same?

 

"Angel?" he calls, closing the shop's doors behind him with a snap of his fingers.

 

The lack of answer only puts speed in his stride and he reaches the back room at a near sprint. Not here either. Something's definitely not right.

 

"Aziraphale!"

 

He takes the stairs up to the angel's flat two at a time, the door flinging open long before he even reaches it. But as he enters, he finds that Aziraphale doesn't seem to be in any danger. He's sat on the sofa, his coat on the rack nearby. He's looking particularly let loose (well, for him anyway) with his sleeves are rolled up to the elbow, his bowtie untied, and a glass held between his hands. 

 

"Couldn't be arsed to answer me, I suppose? I was only screaming my bloody head off for you down there," Crowley says. But when he sees the small puddle of liquid at the bottom of the glass and the flush on the angel's face, he can see what part of the problem is. "You've been drinking tonight, haven't you?"

 

It's really not much of a question. It's as plain as day that he has been. The empty wine bottles on the coffee table are kind of a dead give away.

 

"No. I mean, yes, but that's not—that doesn't have anything to do with why I asked you here," Aziraphale says. "Or... Well, I suppose it does, it's just not the reason, um..."

 

The angel isn't just in his cups. He's about as drunk as Crowley can remember having seen him and that can't bode well. Crowley leans to the side, resting his weight on his hip against the wall as he crosses his arms over his chest, suddenly very aware of the fact that he's never even seen the angel's flat before.

 

"You said you needed to speak to me," Crowley reminds him. "Suppose you might like to sober up for that?"

 

Squeezing his eyes shut tight, Aziraphale shakes his head in response. If Crowley hadn't been concerned before, he is now. The angel never likes to have serious conversations while inebriated. What could he possibly have to talk about that he can't be sober for? That he called Crowley in the middle of the night for? It’s obviously of some importance but Crowley can only begin to imagine what it is. Aziraphale hardly looks happy about it and the demon’s gut churns unpleasantly.

 

"Alright," Crowley says. He carefully pries himself from the wall and approaches the worn but comfortable looking sofa, taking a seat on the far end. He wants to be close, but still leave the angel enough room so that he doesn’t feel smothered, sensing that this is something which should be approached delicately. “Do you want to tell me what it is, then?”

 

With a nod, Aziraphale leans forward and places his glass on the coffee table. For a moment Crowley thinks he’s about to refill it, but thankfully he leaves it just where it is and leans back in his seat. The angel presses his hands to his face with a heavy sigh.

 

“I’m sorry I woke you,” Aziraphale says. “I didn’t... didn’t realize what time it was.”

 

Crowley shrugs a shoulder. “Well, I mean, I don’t actually need to sleep and you sounded like you had something important. Is it about... them?”

 

He stresses the word, knowing his counterpart will pick it up. But Aziraphale shakes his head, not looking to be in any better spirits for it. So no news on that front. But if not that, he doesn’t know what could have the angel so tied in knots. He watches as Aziraphale looks down at his well-manicured hands where they now rest in his lap. He tugs his fingers, curls them around each other, squeezes them, laces them together, bends them at angles which should be painful. Such a familiar quirk by now and an easy tell when it comes to reading him.

 

“This might sound a bit... strange to you, Crowley. And you may not like what I have to say,” Aziraphale warns him. “But I ask that you please let me say it.”

 

This is starting to scare him, and he isn't the type to scare easily. “Angel, I don’t know what–“

 

“Please,” Aziraphale reiterates, hazel eyes pleading and dark with some mixture of emotion that Crowley can’t identify. “Then you can say or do whatever you wish.”

 

Crowley doesn’t know what else to do than agree. He nods his head, rubbing his palms against his thighs as he does so. “...alright.”

 

“Thank you,” Aziraphale says, seeming genuinely relieved. 

 

It seems he’s taking a moment to gather his thoughts or compose himself as he inhales deeply and closes his eyes once more. He’d said that Crowley may not like what he has to say. Frankly, they’ve said a lot of things to each other that the other hasn’t liked over the years. But after the Notpocalypse, he felt as though they’d come to a new understanding of each other. That they’d reached a new place in regards to one another. He doesn’t very much like the idea of being knocked from that place.

 

“I’ve been doing a great deal of thinking... for a long time now, but also much more of it very recently,” Aziraphale says, opening his eyes but not looking at him. “After our recent adventure put things into perspective. And I’m–I’m just–I wanted to... to...”

 

Barely two sentences in and he’s already getting himself this worked up. Crowley feels the need to interject, but remembers his promise to allow the angel to say his piece.

 

“The thing is, I know the things they say about me. Up... Up there. I do,” Aziraphale says. “And it’s not even that I blame them, I can–well, I understand. They don’t think I know, but I do. And truth be told, I’ve never been very good at being an angel so they’re not entirely wrong.”

 

“Angel–“

 

All I’m saying,” Aziraphale declares loudly, talking over Crowley, “is that I never quite... fit in. I was never quite good enough. But in the same token, I don’t think I’m quite, well... bad enough for Hell. So I thought to myself–I–I thought, what exactly would you call an angel who isn’t good enough for Heaven but not bad enough for Hell?”

 

Crowley doesn’t bother to try and answer. 

 

“I thought that sounded very nearly human,” Aziraphale says. “But the thing is–the thing is–I’m not that either. I don’t fit anywhere. And I tried to just–just pretend that I did. That if I did so long enough then I would fit, I would be a good enough angel. But that’s... It’s just not who I am. It’s not something I can bury deep enough that it goes away.”

 

The angel finally meets his gaze. His eyes are wet with tears threatening to overcome him at any moment. It makes Crowley’s chest tight, leaving him feeling robbed of air that he doesn’t really need.

 

“All of this made me realize. You’ve... You’ve always–always felt like home to me,” Aziraphale says, his voice waterlogged. “When you said we were on our own side, I... I couldn’t fathom at first why it... it just made so much sense. Because that’s how it’s always been. Even when we were at odds you... I felt closer to you than anyone or anything else. You are... You are the single most important thing to me in all of Creation.”

 

The demon breathes out, half startled wheeze and half anxious laugh. “Now I know you’ve been drinking.”

 

He hadn’t meant it to, but it’s clear the comment stings. If only he could make the angel understand that it hadn’t been meant as a joke, but rather a statement of plain disbelief. Because he can’t even begin to comprehend how they’re having this conversation right now. Crowley’s lost count of the number of times he’s pictured this scenario in his head. Only it was never Aziraphale who had initiated it.

 

“For a very long time I didn’t know if I... What I mean is that angels are made to love, but I didn’t think we were equipped to love the way that... that...” Aziraphale’s nearly choking on the words and Crowley feels as though someone has a vice on his heart. “The way that I love you. Because I realized that’s what I felt. I love you. I've been so—so afraid to say it. For so long. So afraid of what could happen to either of us if I did and... And I don’t know if I should be apologizing for making you wait six thousand years or... or–or for ruining our friendship by saying it, I just... I just needed...”

 

Crowley needs to say something. Anything. Whatever will stop those fat tears from rolling down the angel’s cheeks. But his tongue has shriveled up in his mouth because Aziraphale loves him. That’s what he said. That he loves him. Him. Crowley. So he does he only thing he can think to do in that moment.

 

In hindsight, he realizes he’d practically thrown himself at the angel in his haste, but neither of them seemed to mind. Crowley lunges to close the gap between them, his hands on Aziraphale’s face as he kisses him into silence. Aziraphale whimpers against his lips and grips Crowley’s shirt tightly, trying to somehow bring him even closer. Crowley has wanted this for more years than he can count. But not like this. He never wanted it to hurt.

 

But it was bound to, wasn't it? Six thousand years of dancing this dance, of hurting and helping each other, of loving as quietly as they could. This is just ripping the bandage off. A hurt that will pass. That's all it is, he has to believe that.

 

“Stop,” Crowley breathes, the second they part. He can feel the sting of tears in his own eyes now, can feel them running hot down his cheeks and leaving chilly trails in their wake as they meet the open air. “Stop. Just... Stop, you idiot.”

 

“I’m sorry," Aziraphale hiccups.

 

"No, that's not what I—don't apologize," Crowley says, keeping his forehead pressed against the angel's. "Why the hell did you have to be drunk to tell me this?"

 

"I thought it would be easier if you... if you didn't recip—rec'pr... if you didn't feel the same," Aziraphale explains. "I didn't think I could bear to hear it sober."

 

He wasn't sure. And here Crowley thought he'd been the obvious one. He thought he'd given himself away more times than he could count and here the angel tells him he hadn't known.

 

"You have to have known," Crowley says, his voice hushed, wrecked. "How could you not have known that I love you more than anything?"

 

"I didn't know if you could. I didn't know if either of us could," Aziraphale says. "I just... I've just been so confused and I thought... just having you as a friend was enough but—" He laughs, but there's little humor in it. "—you know how overindulgent I can be so... so... I had to know for sure. But the thought of driving you away, I couldn't..."

 

The angel makes a small, miserable noise, as though the mere thought has caused him pain. Crowley feels it, too. He knows that pain like an old friend.

 

"Angel, nothing's ever driving me away," Crowley assures him. "The only way I'm going anywhere is if you tell me to."

 

There's a brief nod from the angel as he sniffles quietly, his hands gently pushing the demon away. For a moment Crowley feels a stab of panic, until Aziraphale reaches up and pulls his shades from his face. He folds them neatly, placing them on the coffee table by several empty bottles. He takes his time in framing Crowley's face with his hands, brushing his thumbs along sharp cheekbones and staring deep into eyes as gold as wheat fields in the midday sun.

 

"I just... wanted to see your eyes for this," Aziraphale says, still weepy. "I love your eyes, you know. I know why you hide them but..."

 

He stares into them as though he's found something there and Crowley can't for the life of them imagine what that is. But it occurs to him now that the angel is still incredibly drunk and, doubt being such a good friend of his, feels himself drawing back.

 

"Look, are you sure about this?" Crowley asks. He reaches up to hold the angel by the wrists. He has to be sure. "Because if you sober up and you're not, I don't think I'll be able to take it. So I need to know."

 

"I wouldn't have started drinking if I weren't sure, but... I—I see what you mean. I'll sober up now," Aziraphale agrees. "Just give me a moment..."

 

They tend not to have the nasty side effects that come with sobering up that humans do, but it doesn't mean it's pleasant. He can tell the angel is sober and experiencing a headache—he always gets them when he drinks too much wine—the moment the bottles are refilled and he winces. Aziraphale presses the heel of his palm to his eye with a soft hiss, undoubtedly regretting some of his decisions, but hopefully not the one Crowley is most concerned with.

 

"I'm sorry about that, my dear," he sighs, still wiping at the tears in his eyes. "Will this do?"

 

"That depends," Crowley says, trying and failing to sound calmer than he feels.

 

There's a flicker of confusion in the angel's eyes before he understands what Crowley's asking of him.

 

"I love you," Aziraphale says, gently smiling at him as though saying it had been the easiest thing in the world. But then, he is an angel, Crowley supposes. It's bound to be easier. "I've always loved you. I just... didn't always know it. Or understand it. But I do now. And you, um..."

 

"Of course I love you," Crowley says, trying not to shout. "Did everything short of putting it up in neon lights."

 

"...or saying it," Aziraphale adds.

 

"...or that. But look, you weren't the only one with doubts," Crowley informs him. "I never said anything because I thought if I did, you'd be gone."

 

"I think... I think at one time, that admission might have frightened me," Aziraphale admits, looking just a touch guilty. "How long have you...?"

 

"Since the beginning," Crowley says. "Since the second you told me you'd done the fool thing of giving away that bloody sword of yours."

 

"And you... knew, then," Aziraphale prods.

 

"About my own feelings, yeah, sure," Crowley says. "Not about yours."

 

"Oh, my dear, I'm so sorry," Aziraphale sighs, reaching for his hands once more and holding them between his own. "I'm sorry I didn't understand any of this. I'm sorry it took so long. I'm sorry I... cocked it all up so spectacularly."

 

"You haven't cocked anything up. What's a few thousand years between friends, right?" Crowley says with a half-laugh. He clears his throat. "Or... whatever it is we are."

 

"Us?" Aziraphale ventures. "I think we can be 'Us' for now and perhaps—perhaps figure the rest out in the morning."

 

Right. Morning. He'd been sleeping before this, hadn't he? It hardly feels like it now. But he supposes he should get home and give them both some space to think this all over. That must be what the angel's implying. He's distracted from his thoughts by the feeling of his hands being squeezed and finds Aziraphale with a near-death grip on them.

 

"I know you were sleeping prior to this," the angel says slowly. "And I was thinking of... perhaps sleeping this headache off. So I wondered if you might—you don't have to, of course—but perhaps you might consider—ah—well... staying... here. With me."

 

Crowley feels like he's been repeatedly slapped in the face by life tonight and now she's just decided to straight out come for his life. Aziraphale is asking him to spend the night. Aziraphale, who has nearly never slept in 6,000 years, is asking Crowley to go to bed with him. The demon is starting to wonder when the other shoe is going to drop on this one, but strangely, even as he asks himself that, he has a feeling it isn't going to.

 

"Yeah," Crowley manages to say around the lump in his throat, forcing the words past a tongue that's shrivelled up in his mouth. "Yeah, alright."

 

And the way those simple words make Aziraphale glow... It's nearly too much for him. He claims to hate seeing Crowley hide his eyes, but doesn't seem to realize that half the time it's just because he's too damn bright. More than once, Crowley's been afraid of being burned for getting too close. But now, as the angel takes him by the hand and leads him away from the sofa, Crowley wouldn't dream of letting go. 

Chapter Text

"Why 'Aziraphale'?"

 

The Hufflepuff third year startles so violently that the stack of books he'd been carrying goes tumbling to the floor. At first, he's far more concerned with picking them up and checking for damage, but when he finds one being held out to him, he's frozen in place on his hands and knees. He knows this boy. Well, not really. He knows him about as much as any other student knows him.

 

Anthony J. Crowley is a recent transfer student, sorted into Slytherin. Rumors swirled around him but one fact remained: for whatever reason, Crowley had been expelled from Ilvermorny School of Witchcraft and Wizardry only to find himself attending Hogwarts after returning to England. There were whispers, of course. Most having to do with Dark Magic. Apparently, he was a parseltongue. Aziraphale preferred not to listen if he could.

 

"So, why 'Aziraphale'?" Crowley asks him again.

 

"I'm—I'm sorry?" Aziraphale answers, clutching his books as an old woman might clutch her pearls when confronted with an unsavory character.

 

"Your name. It's weird, isn't it? I mean, your siblings all got normal names; Gabriel, Michael, Raphael... So why'd you get stuck with the weird one?" Crowley asks.

 

"First of all, it's not weird," Aziraphale says primly. "And hardly the weirdest here even if it were. And secondly, it's a family name."

 

Crowley seems to think this over. "They give family names to adopted kids?"

 

Aziraphale feels his face flush. "As if that's any of your business!"

 

Crowley may have attempted to say something in response but Aziraphale had ducked his head and hurried away without bothering to look. What would he know about it, anyway?

 


 

The next time they meet is months later, when Aziraphale is sitting by the Great Lake, reading the latest books he’d pried from the library and sharing his toast with the Giant Squid—whose name is Melville, but no one seems to want to believe him, and so he generally just keeps that bit to himself these days.

 

“I wasn’t saying it to be insulting, you know.”

 

Again, Aziraphale startles at the unexpected voice, forfeiting three pieces of toast in his excitement, which the squid plucks from the water with a tentacle and wiggles in the air in triumph.

 

“You really could learn how to say a proper ‘hello’ you know,” Aziraphale protests, thankful he’d at least kept the books dry.

 

Crowley stares at him with those enchanting golden eyes, a ginger eyebrow hoisted curiously. “...hello, Angel.”

 

The Slytherin student is using his surname, he knows, but something about Crowley’s intonation makes it feel like anything but.

 

“Hello,” Aziraphale breathes out in an annoyed sigh, patting the squid’s insistently searching tentacle in a promise to return with more treats soon. “What do you want? I’m busy.”

 

“I can see that,” Crowley agrees, his voice ringing with amusement. “I said that I wasn’t saying anything about your name to insult you. I was just curious.”

 

“That was two months ago,” Aziraphale says. “You’re coming to make an apology now?”

 

Crowley shrugs lazily, flopping onto the grass beside him. “I’ve been busy.”

 

“So I hear,” Aziraphale snorts.

 

Crowley has begun to make a name for himself in the two months that he’s been with them. Although Slytherin students tend to have something of a negative reputation about them, Crowley has made himself stand out as a consummate prankster; an easy going, laid back boy just looking for a good time. It seemed students from every House had gained a certain admiration for the transfer student’s antics, especially when it managed to get them out of an exam. Although this meant Crowley had become a frequent visitor to the Headmaster’s office, he seemed to have something of a silver tongue, as his punishments never seemed as severe as Aziraphale would think they should be.

 

Crowley fixes him with another look and Aziraphale can’t help but get the impression that Crowley feels as though he is patiently waiting for the Hufflepuff to catch up.

 

“You’re not the only one who’s adopted, either,” Crowley informs him.

 

“Oh,” Aziraphale says, clearing his throat. “Yes, um... I had heard something about that...”

 

Hastur and Ligur DeVille tend to give Aziraphale about as much grief as his own siblings do. He can only imagine what it must be like to live with them. Crowley’s cousins aren’t nearly so charming as he is—and Aziraphale hates to admit it but Crowley is terribly charming. In comparison, they’re really rather dull and unimaginative and if it weren’t for their decidedly larger physical mass and Aziraphale’s own hesitation regarding using magic against another student (it's against the rules, you know!), they wouldn’t cause him nearly so much trouble. It was another reason he so enjoyed the school’s library—the two seemed hell bent on avoiding it at all costs.

 

“You seem to hear an awful lot about me,” Crowley says, interrupting his musings. The broad grin stretched across his face brings to mind the image of a snake who’s cornered a particularly plump mouse.

 

“Not purposefully,” Aziraphale assures him, shifting where he sits, fiddling with the cover of the book in his hands. “It just seems I can’t get away from all this talk about you. I’m bound to hear some of it.”

 

“And you’ve never thought to verify any of it for yourself,” Crowley prods. Strangely, he doesn’t seem offended by that thought.

 

“W-Well... Well, no,” Aziraphale admits, reminding himself that there is a precious text in his hands and his anxious fingers could very well damage it if he doesn’t control them. “I suppose I never have.”

 

Crowley hums thoughtfully, lying back in the grass with his hands folded behind his head. He seems to be the picture of ease, long limbs that spoke of an impending growth spurt stretched in a graceful tangle. His tie never seemed to ever be tied quite properly, Aziraphale had noticed, and even now hangs loosely from beneath his collar. His shirt peeks out from beneath his sweater, being that he never seemed to consider it worth the effort to tuck it in, and the top button remains ever-undone, giving even the casual observer a peek at the creamy skin of his throat and a sharp collarbone.

 

...not that Aziraphale is looking. He isn’t.

 

“You get your permission slip signed for Hogsmeade?” Crowley asks suddenly.

 

“What? Oh. Yes, I have,” Aziraphale answers.

 

“Let me buy you a butterbeer, then,” Crowley says. “To make up for our first meeting.”

 

Aziraphale bites on his lower lip. He really shouldn’t agree to this. It’s bad enough he’d shamed the family by being sorted into anything other than Gryffindor. If they knew he was actively fraternizing with a Slytherin...

 

“I don’t... think that would be wise,” Aziraphale says slowly.

 

“Come on,” Crowley says, the words emerging like dripped honey. “Just one drink.”

 

Aziraphale swallows thickly, staring back at the Slytherin. A tentacle checks the plate on the grass beside him for any remaining toast and, finding it empty, decides the plate itself will do and drags its prize into the depths of the lake. Surely one drink wouldn't hurt.

 


 

It's their fourth year and Crowley finds he can't get the cherubic Hufflepuff out of his head.

 

He really hadn't meant to take such an interest. But an offer of a butterbeer had turned into walking back to the castle together, which had turned into talking, which had turned into Aziraphale offering to help him with his History of Magic homework, which had turned into Crowley giving his cousins a right beatdown when he'd spotted the black eye they'd given the Hufflepuff. It had gone on like that, a little arrangement sort of; Aziraphale helped with whatever assignment Crowley didn't care to do the reading for and Crowley would somehow appear whenever Aziraphale had walked himself into yet another less-than-ideal situation. And before he'd realized, they'd become something like friends. 

 

Only Crowley apparently couldn't stay satisfied with just being friends. No, that would be too simple. And his life's been a lot of things, but simple was never one of them.

 

Which is why, as he sits astride his broom, high above the quidditch pitch, he finds his thoughts on things other than the game. Like the pleasantly round face of the single Hufflepuff sitting in the stands—not for him, of course, but watching him all the same.

 

Crowley feels a hard bump against his side and scowls when he finds the smiling face of Gryffindor's Quidditch Captain, Raphael. He's the only one of Aziraphale's siblings that Crowley can stand, mostly because it's difficult not to like him. He just has that air about him, like he's everyone's friend or older brother, always willing to lend a hand and not seeming to have an ounce of negativity in him. But Raphael's good looks and good grades and winning personality mean very little to Crowley in the end; all he cares about is that Raphael is the only one of the Angel siblings that doesn't treat Aziraphale like garbage.

 

Truth be told, he's one of the few people that see Crowley as anything other than a trouble maker or bad news. Sometimes it feels as though he knows a little too much about Crowley. He's not used to people understanding him—or even trying to—and Raphael's eerie intuition tends to leave him feeling spooked. But try as he might, Crowley just can't seem to get rid of him.

 

"You're distracted," Raphael says over the roar of the wind. "That's no way to win a match!"

 

"Yeah, well, no one asked you!" Crowley hollers back.

 

"Speaking of asking," Raphael says brightly, "why don't you?"

 

"...what the hell are you on about?" Crowley asks. "Did you get hit in the head with a bludger when I wasn't looking or something?"

 

"I'm talking about Aziraphale," Raphael clarifies. "You should stop staring and just ask him already."

 

Now Crowley feels as though he's the one who's been hit by a bludger. Is it that obvious? I mean, sure, he obviously prefers Aziraphale's company over anyone else's, but that's how it is with a best friend. Isn't it? So is there something else? Something that's giving him away that he hadn't realized he was doing? And if Raphael's noticed, does that mean Aziraphale—

 

He only realizes he's lost focus when the older boy reaches out and snatches something out of the air right in front of his face. Crowley's cheeks burn when he sees Raphael grinning back at him, the Snitch securely in his grasp.

 

"Think about it," Raphael says, beginning his descent. "He wasn't here to watch me, that's all I'm saying."

 

Crowley glares down at him.

 

Even Gryffindors can play dirty.

 


 

It's their fifth year and Crowley's broom is in splinters. It had been a good broom. A classic. All sleek black and polished silver trimmings. Say what you want about these newer brooms, but Crowley is of the opinion that they don't make them like they used to.

 

Only none of that matters very much anymore. Not when it's been obliterated into a thousand toothpick-sized shards of wood. He doesn't know of a single spell that could put it back the way it was before. Oh, they could fix it, maybe. But she'd never fly the same. He'd always be able to tell.

 

"Crowley?"

 

He hears the question in the Hufflepuff's voice, wondering if he's welcome. But of course, he is. He always is. Even now, when Crowley doesn't want to see a single living thing, he's welcome. Because of course, Aziraphale would find him. He's too clever by half—and often too much so for his own good—and so obviously he would find where Crowley had hidden in depths of the Shrieking Shack.

 

The Hufflepuff boy eases himself onto the dusty sofa beside him, moving slowly, as though afraid of startling him. Crowley sniffles absently and stares down at his scuffed trainers, unwilling to meet the other boy's gaze. He doesn't want to see pity in his eyes. He doesn't want it. If there's one thing he can't stand, it's pity, and Aziraphale is the last person he wants it from.

 

"I'm sorry about your broom," Aziraphale says quietly. "Have they got any idea who may have done it?"

 

Crowley shakes his head silently. Of course, he has plenty of ideas himself as to who's responsible, but without evidence, he's not going to see anything stick. And, as much as he might be hurting right now, the last thing Crowley wants is to hurt Aziraphale too. Because even if he has no idea what Gabriel and his other siblings have been up to, undoubtedly he'll carry the guilt for it.

 

"I know, uh, I'm not the biggest fan of flying," Aziraphale says. Crowley nearly laughs at what has to be the greatest understatement of the year; he'd once tried to take Aziraphale for a ride across the lake and the Hufflepuff had passed out in a dead faint from sheer fright. "But it was a good broom and I know how much you treasured it. I'm not sure what I can do as far as finding who's responsible or—or fixing the broom, but I'll do whatever I can to help."

 

Crowley huffs a watery laugh, still trying to play it cool. "Shouldn't matter so much anyway."

 

"Of course it should," Aziraphale says. "You love that broom. No one has any right to do what they did to it."

 

"You know, it was the only thing they left me? That broom," Crowley says suddenly. He's not even sure why he's saying it. "My parents left me that broom when they dropped me on my aunt and uncle's doorstep. I don't even know if they left it intentionally or if they were in such a hurry to get rid of me that it just got left behind."

 

Aziraphale doesn't say anything, but Crowley can feel that he wants to. The Slytherin scrubs at his face with the sleeve of his robes, undoubtedly only making more of a mess of himself with all the dust and dirt on them.

 

"But I loved that broom. From the second I got my hands on it," Crowley tells him. "I always thought, you know, maybe they did care about me after all. Or maybe they'd come back for me. After all, why would they leave me that broom if they didn't care at all? But they never came back. I don't know why I thought they'd care."

 

He kicks the burlap bag by his foot absently, hearing the creak of wood and straw within when he does.

 

"So why should I bother being upset?" Crowley asks with a humorless laugh, feeling tears prickling at his eyes again. "Why should I care so much about something from someone who never wanted me? I mean—I mean, their loss, right? Fuck 'em."

 

"Oh, Crowley..."

 

He doesn't want to be pitied. But that thought doesn't make him cling to Aziraphale any less fiercely when the Hufflepuff's arms wrap around him. He doesn't even remember the last time someone had touched him like this. Maybe no one had. And part of him hates the way he needs it, the way he breaks down and cries like a fucking baby on Aziraphale's shoulder. 

 

They're reprimanded the next day when it's found out that they'd both been out of bed all night, but strangely, Aziraphale doesn't seem to mind.

 


 

It's their sixth year and Aziraphale is screaming.

 

"I don't care what you think!"

 

Crowley can nearly feel the hush that falls over the courtyard. As far as he knows, Aziraphale's never even thought of talking back to any of his siblings, least of all Gabriel. And Gabriel may be smiling, but there's nothing but ice in that sharp violet gaze.

 

"I'm sorry, what did you just say?" Gabriel asks, knowing full well what had been said.

 

"I don't—I don't care what you think," Aziraphale repeats, softer now but remaining firm. "Because you're wrong. Crowley isn't a bad person and he's a good friend and you're wrong."

 

Gabriel laughs, but it lacks any true warmth. "Is that what this is about? Aziraphale, you know I've only ever been looking out for you. You're just confused, is all. Not that it's any surprise considering you've been spending your time with a sneaky little bastard of a Slytherin for—"

 

"Shut up," Aziraphale cuts him off. "You don't get to say that when you don't know anything about him at all. And I can think for myself, I don't need you doing it for me."

 

He's pushing his luck, Crowley can tell. The Gryffindor is radiating an aura of barely restrained menace and already Crowley can see some of the wiser students making themselves scarce. Aziraphale knows he's poking a hippogriff with a stick here. Gabriel is a complicated sort of person if you ask Crowley. Always fiercely determined to do what's best for the greater good, but always going about it in the wrong way. While he may achieve nearly the same results as Raphael had as Head Boy, Gabriel has a tendency to keep people in line through force and mistakes fear for respect.

 

In the three years since he'd come to Hogwarts, Crowley found Gabriel's preferred target seemed to be his own brother. Whether it was Aziraphale's House, his weight, his fear of flying; anything was game for some of Gabriel's brand of brotherly love. Because in Gabriel's eyes, Aziraphale could do better. He'd been the only one of them who hadn't been sorted into Gryffindor and that had always been a sticking point with Gabriel. Because Aziraphale was soft. Not the brave, proud Gryffindor he should be. Not like the rest of them. And for as long as Crowley's known him, Aziraphale has just accepted his siblings' criticisms. Or worse, excused them. 

 

"I think you're forgetting who you're talking to, Aziraphale," Gabriel says with a laugh. "I've told you before he was a bad influence on you and now look where we are."

 

"Crowley isn't a bad influence, he's my friend," Aziraphale corrects him, his eyes beginning to look wet. He's always been an angry crier and Crowley knows he hates it.

 

The Slytherin boy leans in, speaking quietly to the Hufflepuff. "Come on, just leave it. It's not worth it."

 

"Crowley's right about that much," Gabriel says, taking a step towards them, his smile looking positively predatory. "He certainly isn't worth anything."

 

Aziraphale is more likely to duck and cover than he is to fight when it comes to a physical altercation. He liked to be the good student. The nice one. Which is why it's such a surprise to Crowley when he rushes forward like a bull and pushes Gabriel hard enough to knock the older boy to the ground.

 

The second he hits the cobblestones, Gabriel's expression changes. It's as though a switch has been flicked, anger twisting his handsome face into something ugly, any hint of a smile long gone. But Aziraphale stands his ground. He doesn't cower or flinch or draw away as Crowley has seen him do a hundred times before. If anything, he looks every bit as angry as Gabriel, hazel eyes lit up in a way that's completely new to Crowley.

 

But Gabriel isn't the sort to let that act go unpunished and is back on his feet in seconds. His hands are on Aziraphale an instant later, grabbing him by his robes and hoisting him up to eye level.

 

"Big mistake," Gabriel growls, his eyes flashing menacingly. "All I've ever done is try to make something out of you, and this is how you behave you stupid, fat—"

 

Crowley punches him. He punches Gabriel in his stupid, perfect face and his stupid, perfect teeth and hopes he breaks his stupid, perfect fucking nose. He'd have been happy to keep going, too. But in the midst of the havoc he's just created, he feels a hand wrap tightly around his own, and before he realizes, he's running with Aziraphale as they flee the courtyard.

 

The Shrieking Shack winds up being their destination. They're both going to be in some serious trouble, but as Aziraphale flops down beside him, thoroughly winded from their escape, Crowley has other things on his mind.

 

"You're so... stupid...!" Aziraphale wheezes angrily.

 

"Wh—Me, stupid? He was about to bloody throttle you, idiot!" Crowley sputters. "What'd you go winding him up for over nothing?"

 

"It wasn't nothing," Aziraphale says. "The way he was talking about you—"

 

"Oh, please," Crowley snorts. "As if that's the worst I've heard."

 

"That's exactly my point!" Aziraphale insists. "Why should that be alright? Why should you have to get used to people talking like that?"

 

"Look, I am used to it," Crowley says rolling his eyes. "If you're going to pick a fight with Gabriel, do it for yourself, not for me."

 

But the earlier wind in Aziraphale's sails seems to have left him now that they're away from the situation. "He's not... I mean, he's wrong to say those things about you but I'm... what I mean is... This—This wasn't about me."

 

"Whether it was or wasn't, it doesn't change the fact that he's wrong to treat you the way he does," Crowley adds firmly.

 

Aziraphale doesn't answer him straight out, just mumbles something too quietly for Crowley to hear. His hands fidget nervously and he stares down at them, refusing to meet Crowley's eyes.

 

"Let's—Let's just forget that for now," he insists. "They'll probably be looking for us soon, so we should be prepared..."

 

Crowley studies him for a long moment as he babbles on about what they should tell their professors when the time comes. "He was right, though."

 

Aziraphale's head shoots up and when their eyes meet, Crowley sees the hurt that's nestled there. He'd thought that Crowley meant... Oh. No, no, no, he'd misunderstood

 

"No! Not about you," Crowley says quickly. "About me, I mean. Well, me and you. My reputation. Being friends with me is just going to make you guilty by association, you know. People will talk. They already do, I'm sure you've heard it."

 

"I don't care what anyone else thinks."

 

It feels as though Crowley's heart has leaped into his throat. Aziraphale hadn't even hesitated, answering with such barefaced honesty and affection that Crowley feels entirely caught off guard. It's something that's always caught Crowley off guard, the way Aziraphale can so openly express his love verbally. The way he can do so without an ounce of shame. Not like Crowley, who has never been able to get his clever tongue to form the words quite right. So he simply tries to communicate it through his actions instead. He doesn't know if Aziraphale understands. And so he tries and tries and tries again, desperate to find the right translation. He'll try as long as he needs to.

 

The Hufflepuff's hand is warm when it reaches for one of his own.

 

"You're my friend," Aziraphale says. "Nothing anyone says can change that."

 

Yes. They're friends. And Aziraphale is a good friend—his best friend—so he shouldn't want this, want more from him than he's willing to give. Crowley quietly tucks that feeling away, puts it to bed for the time being. Not now. Not right now.

 

"Not even if Professor McGonagall promised you that you'd get higher scores if you stopped associating with me?" Crowley asks with a sly grin, deciding he'd like to change the atmosphere of their conversation.

 

Color rises high on Aziraphale's cheeks as he puffs them out irritably. It's so easy to wind him up. "Oh, as if she would ever say such a thing! Don't be cheeky!"

 

They wait there for another half-hour before deciding it's best if they turn themselves in. But as they walk down the long tunnel, Aziraphale hasn't let go of Crowley's hand. Crowley decides it should be fine if he happens to fail to mention it.

 


 

It's their seventh year and Aziraphale's fingers are tied in knots. He's been wringing his hands for the past half hour and at this point, Crowley is starting to worry about the state of his joints.

 

"We won't be coming back here after tomorrow," Aziraphale says, finally breaking the silence.

 

Crowley lounges lazily on the sofa beside him, pleasantly warmed by the crackling fire the Room of Requirement had created for them. It's true tomorrow is their last day at Hogwarts and Crowley would be a liar if he claimed he hadn't thought about it. A lot. 

 

"So?" he prods.

 

"So," Aziraphale says a touch testily, "we won't be coming back, Crowley. As in we all depart and go our separate ways and don't see each other again once autumn rolls around."

 

"Alright," Crowley says. "But school isn't the only place we have to see each other."

 

"I know that, but..." The Hufflepuff makes a small, indecisive noise. "I don't know, it just feels as though... something's over."

 

"Something is over: our formal education," Crowley says dryly.

 

"Something else," Aziraphale says, shaking his head. "I just... What if this is the last we see if each other?"

 

Crowley's eyebrows jump to his hairline. "Angel, what on Earth makes you believe that?"

 

"I don't know," Aziraphale says, the beginnings of frustration edging into his voice. "I have a bad feeling or—or I'm just worried. Because I always knew you would be here when each new term began and we don't have that certainty as adults. Things happen. People grow and change and find new opportunities in different places and drift apart."

 

"Well, that's not going to happen to us," Crowley assures him.

 

"How can you possibly be so sure?" Aziraphale asks.

 

Crowley purses his lips thinking it over. He's been sitting on this idea for such a long time, but until now, that's all it's been: an idea. Voicing it is decidedly more difficult. How exactly to phrase it...?

 

"Run away with me," he says.

 

Aziraphale stares.

 

"...what?" 

 

"Run away with me. When we leave tomorrow. Let's run away somewhere together. Away from my cousins and your brothers and sisters," Crowley says, leaning in towards him. "It's a big world out there. We could go anywhere—anywhere you like. You could open that bookshop you wanted. We can live together, get a cottage or a flat or... whatever, I don't know. We could just go."

 

Aziraphale laughs incredulously. "We can't just run away, that's insane."

 

"Is it?" Crowley asks him.

 

"We don't even have a plan," Aziraphale says. 

 

"The let's make one. Tonight. Right now," Crowley says.

 

Aziraphale frowns down at his hands and doesn't answer. Crowley silently wills him to say something. He'd just put himself out there in a way he never has before and he's being met with a silence that feels as though it takes a year off his life for each second it continues. Perhaps he's pushed too far after all. Perhaps he's gone too fast. He always goes too fast and—

 

"You would really want to?" Aziraphale asks quietly.

 

The Slytherin feels his heart flutter. "It's the only thing I want."

 

"Then... that's what I want, too," Aziraphale says. "I want to be with you. I don't think I ever want to be without you if that makes sense. Do you, um...?"

 

"I want to be with you, too," Crowley manages to say despite the fact that his whole body is tingling, feeling as though it isn't his at all and he's just popped in for a quick look. "Run away with me."

 

Aziraphale is nodding quickly, his eyes damp. He wants this, Crowley realizes. He really does. The Hufflepuff sniffles, wiping hurriedly at his eyes with the sleeve of his robe.

 

"But—But we're not doing it without a plan, so let's take care of that now," he insists. He pauses, a flash of uncertainty in his eyes. "You're certain you want this? That you want... well... me?"

 

Rather than say anything, Crowley leans in further, grabbing Aziraphale by his tie and pressing his lips against the other boy's. When he draws back, the Hufflepuff's face is nearly crimson, his mouth hanging open in shock without Crowley's lips to keep it closed.

 

"O-Oh," Aziraphale croaks. "Good. I'm... I'm glad we—we cleared that up."

 

"Too fast?" Crowley wonders.

 

"I think... I think this is a speed I can handle now," Aziraphale assures him. 

 

A lot of things may be ending, but as they sit and make their plans for tomorrow, Crowley knows that something only ever ends to make way for something new to begin.

Chapter Text

Crowley goes too fast. Always has. Probably always will. But for the first time since they'd met, that doesn't seem as frightening to Aziraphale as it once had. He's learning, now, to be alright with going a little faster than he's used to.

 

Aziraphale has never been what he would consider especially brave. He's not made for fighting the way some angels are—that flaming sword had never seemed to fit in his grip the way they'd wanted it to. He doesn't like stepping on toes or hurting feelings. He'd much rather things remained nice and orderly, all according to plan and no waves made.

 

But there-in lies the problem. Life is oftentimes not nice and orderly. Sometimes the plan you've been following for 6,000 years isn't meant to go accordingly. Sometimes the ones you've always posited were Right really aren't. And sometimes refusing to see that doesn't make you faithful, it just makes you a coward.

 

It's not that Crowley is Right about everything. It's just that he's Right a great deal more so than Aziraphale had been comfortable admitting. Because Crowley is a demon and he an angel and so of course—of course—Aziraphale had to be the one who was Right. He had to be better. Heaven had to be superior to Hell. Above them. (After all, they are quite literally above them.) But in the end—or rather after the Not End—it isn't that one is inherently greater than the other so much as they're two sides of the same coin. Heaven isn't as kind and loving as Aziraphale wished to pretend it was.

 

Deep down he had known these things. It's just that he had so wished to be wrong about some of them. He hasn't the courage to ask questions as Crowley had and whenever he'd thought to try, he found his determination fizzling rather quickly.

 

It's different now. Now that they're on their Own Side. No, he hasn't suddenly been imbued with Crowley's brand of boldness, but he's certainly bolder than before. More willing to take chances and less concerned with the consequences. 

 

Which is why, as the two of them sit comfortably on Crowley's sofa watching a movie, he finds himself saying, "Kiss me."

 

"...what?"

 

Crowley nearly shouts the question, looking positively gobsmacked. They haven't exactly gotten that far. Not just yet. Aziraphale panicks, mentally trying to slam on the breaks as his mind screams too fast too fast too fast!

 

"Uh—No! No. Wait. What I meant—rather—is, um... Would you—that is may I—well..."

 

He hadn't meant for it to sound so demanding. But Crowley hardly seems offended. In fact, he seems quite the opposite. He stares at the angel, eyebrows raised in surprise and as Aziraphale watches, his slitted pupils dilate until his eyes are more black than gold. Oh. Oh, well that's something.

 

In the end, Aziraphale is the one initiating the action. He's kissed and been kissed before, but not like this. This is nothing like the greetings of Ancient Rome, nor the eager exchanges during the gavotte (there had inevitability been a handful of participants when he'd been learning who were particularly enthusiastic). No, this is... Crowley. The one person who matters more to him than anything in all of Creation.

 

Just the simple press of their lips together carries so much more with it. Aziraphale hadn't expected the strange, rushing feeling of completeness that fills a space in him he hadn't even known existed. Even as he's feeling this, he has the sense that Crowley is holding back for his sake—being patient, always so patient with him—and has that confirmed as Crowley draws back. Aziraphale decides they aren't finished, chasing the demon and bringing them back together.

 

He hears a soft whine from Crowley—an honest to goodness whine, dear Lord—as they meet again and Aziraphale lifts a hand to his partner's face. Partly to steady them but mostly because he finds something in him demanding that he touch, feel. The angel strokes his cheek as he parts his lips to welcome the demon in. It's curious how such a simple action can elicit such a marvelous response as Crowley caves and decides he's quite done with holding back. He surges forward, accepting the invitation and holding a hand to the back of the angel's head as he deepens their kiss.

 

There's a hunger in it that Aziraphale isn't used to seeing from Crowley; he tends to be less concerned with food or drink than Aziraphale, doesn't seem to crave them in the same way. Now, though, as he bites and sucks and nibbles and thrusts his tongue between the angel's lips like an explorer forging into hitherto uncharted territory, Aziraphale can't help but feel as though he's being devoured. Consumed. Savored.

 

His earlier boldness has waned somewhat, his experience in this matter being non-existent, and control has thus shifted to Crowley's hands. It's not that he particularly minds, either; he trusts the demon implicitly to steer him in the right direction. Which is precisely why he can't help the sudden rush of fondness he feels when Crowley slows down, somehow knowing intuitively when they were approaching the realm of 'too far' for the angel. He draws back, pressing a series of lingering kisses to Aziraphale's lips as he reaches to pull the him into his arms.

 

Aziraphale wraps his arms around Crowley's shoulders, chuckling softly as the demon dips his head to nuzzle against his neck. He knows Crowley would like more, to go further, but... not just yet. 

 

"Thank you," Aziraphale murmurs, carding his fingers through the ginger's hair, pressing a kiss to his temple.

 

He feels the soft puff of air against his neck as Crowley laughs. "This isn't typically the sort of thing you thank someone for, angel."

 

"No, I know. I meant... for being patient with—"

 

"Don't," Crowley tells him, nipping gently at his neck in warning.

 

"Crowley," Aziraphale admonishes fondly. "Will you for once just allow me to say it?"

 

"Say something else," Crowley advises him.

 

Always so stubborn about being thanked. Especially when Aziraphale thanks him for being patient. Nothing seems to irritate him more, though he's yet to explain just why that is and instead just stops Aziraphale from saying it. But Aziraphale is thankful. Oftentimes he thinks Crowley may not know just how much. When he'd told the demon that he went too fast for him, he'd hoped Crowley would understand what he'd truly meant: don't wait for me, it will only hurt you.

 

But he had.

 

Crowley had waited—yes, patiently—and an enormously selfish part of Aziraphale is thankful he had. He hadn't wanted Crowley to be hurt, but undoubtedly it must have. He can't imagine it wouldn't, watching him continue to plod along with his fingers in his ears and his eyes shut tight. An even larger part of him aches at the thought, wishing he'd somehow been able to just say yes. To go faster. To be brave.

 

But he hadn't been.

 

That's why he can't help but be thankful. He can't be anything but grateful that Crowley had waited so they can be here, now, together. But Crowley doesn't want him to say that. Crowley wants him to say something else. And Aziraphale figures if he can't say what he meant to, he can say the next best thing.

 

"I love you."

 

He feels Crowley's embrace grow tighter. "Better."

 

"Mmhmm," Aziraphale hums. "I thought so."

 

"Hey." The demon pulls back just enough to be able to look him in the eye, the smile on his lips smug and satisfied. "Kiss me?"

 

There are a great many things that Aziraphale isn't ready for, that he can't do just yet. But that's alright. He knows Crowley won't rush him. They have all the time in the world and though Aziraphale may not go as fast as Crowley, he's not quite so slow as he used to be. Soon, he knows, he'll be where he needs to be. Just a little while longer. However, in the meantime...

 

"My dear, nothing would make me happier."

Chapter Text

There are many things which Aziraphale could have expected following recent events, but Gabriel sitting in his kitchen was not one of them. It’s been one month since Judgment Day—not the Judgment Day, mind you, just... theirs. Phanuel, the Archangel of Judgment, had passed judgment on all of them following several further adventures after the Notpocalypse which Aziraphale would rather not think about just now. Phanuel had found Gabriel’s leadership lacking, his faith weak, and his methods unbefitting of his station. Initially, their decided upon punishment had been rather harsh: he was to be stripped of his Archangel status and cast out.

 

Now, stripping an Archangel of their status isn’t quite so simple as a demotion. From what Aziraphale understands, the violence equated with it is rather Old Testament. Thankfully, it’s not something Aziraphale has ever had to see in his time. And it remains that way simply because he’d asked.

 

While it’s true that he and Gabriel are not exactly friends (they are very far from it, but Aziraphale would rather not admit that to himself), Aziraphale couldn’t help but find the punishment too severe. Having wings torn off and eyes put out and Her grace ripped from you seemed... ‘inhumane’ is likely not the best word to use, but it’s the best he can come up with. Crowley hadn’t been pleased (please read as: ‘was fucking furious’) when Aziraphale had come to Gabriel’s defense, but ultimately had to accept Phanuel’s judgment like the rest of them. And Phanuel had listened.

 

Which is why Aziraphale now finds himself with Gabriel as his houseguest for the next century, residing in his spare bedroom as he’s barred from Heaven while he reacquaints himself with humanity and reflects upon his actions. Crowley has been tasked with assisting Aziraphale in this venture—his own form of punishment. Looking at the demon hovering beside him, you would think Crowley would have preferred to Fall all over again rather than lift a finger to help Gabriel.

 

...there’s actually a very good chance that’s true, but Aziraphale decides to ignore that thought for now.

 

“So!” he says to the room as he places tea for the three of them on the table. He straightens up. He clears his throat. He crosses his arms. He uncrosses them. He makes to put them in his pockets but thinks better of it at the last moment. And eventually, he settles for clasping them so tightly that his knuckles turn white. “...so...”

 

He can’t think of anything to say. Not a single thing. Usually, the words come tumbling out of his mouth whether he wants them to or not but now he finds that particular well appears to have quite suddenly dried up. Gabriel is still technically his superior. Only he isn’t. But Aziraphale can’t help but think of him as such. Either way, it's the first time he's emerged from his room in the past month.

 

“So... tea. Ah... I wasn’t sure which you might prefer, so I took a guess and thought it would be best to play it safe with plain green tea,” Aziraphale declares.

 

“You know I don’t...” Gabriel’s face wrinkles in an expression of disgust. “...consume things.”

 

“Yes, I... seem to recall you mentioned that,” Aziraphale answers. “But I thought that if you’re meant to be here to be among humans, then perhaps you might... reconsider?”

 

Gabriel’s flat stare is enough of an answer. No tea, then. Crowley snorts, swiping his own cup off the table and leaning into the counter with his hip, his eyes unreadable behind his shades but undoubtedly pinned on Gabriel. The Archangel doesn’t appear interested in what Crowley thinks of him, keeping his sights set on Aziraphale, his violet gaze duller than the Principality can ever remember having seen.

 

“Apparently one of the conditions of my probation,” Gabriel says, accentuating the word with some annoyance, “is to issue you an apology. So since we’re sitting here, why don’t we get that out of the way now.”

 

Crowley, who has been curiously silent until this point, decides now is the perfect time for him to enter the conversation. “Seeing as that condition is a proper apology, I’ll go ahead and guess that whatever it is you’re about to say is shit, so you can save it. Don’t apologize if you don’t mean it.”

 

“I suppose you would know all about that, wouldn’t you?” Gabriel retorts. “Being the Archangel of Forgiveness and all. Oh, excuse me; former Archangel of Forgiveness.”

 

Another parting gift of Judgment Day. They’d learned, courtesy of Phanuel, that prior to his Fall, Crowley had been the Archangel of Forgiveness. Aziraphale had even learned his former name... but it wasn’t something they’d discussed yet. Even a month on, Crowley shied away from the conversation, keeping the old hurt clutched close to his chest. It's not something he's ready to talk about just yet. It's very clearly still a sore spot, as Crowley has a hand around Gabriel’s throat in seconds.

 

“Crowley!” Aziraphale squawks in alarm.

 

Gabriel doesn't appear nearly so flustered as Aziraphale. In fact, he looks quite calm, making no effort to throw Crowley off of him.

 

“Well?” Gabriel taunts. “What are you waiting for?”

 

“I ought to tear you into a million pieces, you know that?”

 

The husky growl of Crowley’s voice sends a shiver down Aziraphale’s spine. He sounds... dangerous. In a way that the angel doesn’t think he’s heard before. Oh, he's heard him angry before. Heard him pretend to be for show, too. But this is something else entirely. He doesn’t like it. Not one bit. 

 

“Go ahead,” Gabriel answers, voice growing hoarse as Crowley’s fingers dig into his neck. “Show me what you’ve got.”

 

“Alright, that’s enough, both of you,” Aziraphale says, edging towards them. “Enough.”

 

“Do you know how often I’ve thought about this?” Crowley asks him, nails digging into the Archangel’s skin. “You think Heizer(*) had it out for you? She’s not even on the map compared to me. I could end you right now.”

 

“Then stop wasting my fucking time,” Gabriel spits, “and do it.”

 

“I said enough.”

 

Aziraphale really hadn’t meant to shout like that. The lightbulbs above the kitchen table burst in a flash of light, sending shattered glass raining down upon the table. A sudden zap of electricity like a miniature bolt of lightning follows half a second later, leaving a scorch mark on the table and cracking one of his teacups and the saucer it sits on in two. Aziraphale muffles a frustrated sound behind tightly sealed lips, willing himself to remain calm. This has really gotten to be too much. He jabs his pointer finger at Crowley.

 

You. Downstairs. Shop. Now.”

 

It says something that Crowley doesn’t argue with him—only giving Gabriel a parting shove as he releases him—but Aziraphale isn’t sure precisely what that is. He waits until Crowley brushes past him before he turns on Gabriel next.

 

“And you... you... you... go to your room.”

 

It's all he could think to say. The Archangel hardly acknowledges him as he stiffly rises from his seat and disappears into said room, the door closing with a soft click behind him without having ever been touched. It's strange, but Aziraphale could almost swear Gabriel had seemed... disappointed. Disappointed that he'd interrupted. Angry as he is, the implication makes his stomach churn. This behavior isn't like Gabriel at all.

 

Aziraphale stands alone in the middle of his kitchen, letting out a great sigh and pressing his hands to his face. What a mess. He'd just finally managed to convince Gabriel to leave his room and now he's certain it will be at least another month before he's able to do it again. Perhaps next time he'd best try it alone. Clearly, he needs to work on the issues surrounding Crowley and Gabriel separately before he can have them together.

 

With an absent wave of his hand, he clears the mess on the kitchen table and heads for the front door of his flat. He takes his time navigating the stairs which lead down to the shop, trying to collect his thoughts along the way, until he reaches the bottom and finds Crowley sitting on the squashy sofa in his backroom. Although, it never seems that Crowley sits anywhere so much as he's displayed there. Even as languidly as he appears to be draped across the sofa, Aziraphale can read his mood through the tension in his shoulders and the thin, unhappy line his lips are pressed into.

 

"I don't want to see that again," Aziraphale says, as calmly as he can manage. "Whatever feelings you may have on the matter, Gabriel is still with us for the next one-hundred years and we'd do well to make the best of it."

 

"Except he wouldn't be if you hadn't said anything," Crowley points out. "Phanuel was ready to do it right then and there. Title stripped and out you go! But you thought that was too harsh."

 

"And I stand by that," Aziraphale responds stiffly.

 

"Even after everything he's done. Everything he's said to you, how he's treated you—when—it's—he made you walk through hellfire, Aziraphale. Me. Me!you. You know what I mean," Crowley says, jumping up off the sofa and approaching him. "No trial, no chance to explain yourself. Just watched you walk through a whirlwind of hellfire with a smile on his face."

 

It's not something Aziraphale cares to be reminded of. When Crowley had first told him—long after their trials had taken place—it had... hurt. Even knowing he had never quite fit in among them, that they perceived him as odd, it had still stung. He had expected better of Heaven. But it wasn't the righteous and loving place he had always held it to be. Maybe it never was. It's been so long, it's sometimes difficult to remember.

 

"I know that," Aziraphale says after a moment. "But that doesn't mean he should be—"

 

"Listen to yourself!" Crowley shouts. "How can you stand there and—and—and defend him like that?"

 

"I don't need you to be angry for me, Crowley!" Aziraphale bites back at him. "It isn't helping matters."

 

"Well you'll hardly do it yourself, so someone has to," Crowley says.

 

"No. You don't get to decide that," Aziraphale says, feeling heat rise under his collar. "If you want to be angry, be angry for yourself, not because of some misguided need to protect me from something."

 

"Misguided?" Crowley laughs. "You would have never had to deal with him again if you'd just kept quiet. Instead, you let him walk all over you at any given opportunity, made sure he got off with a slap on the wrist and haven't given him so much as 'serves you right' since he got here!"

 

He hates this. Hates when they come to this, to jabbing at sore spots to prove their points. But he doesn't know how to make this make sense to Crowley.

 

"I just didn't want to see it happen!" Aziraphale blurts. "I didn't want to see—It's the worst thing I could imagine. The worst punishment imaginable."

 

"Yeah? Well, I Fell. I'm still here," Crowley snaps. "He'd've lived, the ungrateful sod. But sure, I can see why ending up like me would be the worst punishment imaginable."

 

"Crowley," Aziraphale says, softer now. "You know that isn't what I meant at all."

 

"Then why?" Crowley demands, ripping off his shades to look him straight in the eye. "Why would you do that for him?"

 

This is hurting Crowley, Aziraphale realizes. It hurts him to see Aziraphale seemingly sweep Gabriel's words and actions under the rug. He knew that it frustrated the demon, but this isn't annoyance. He's angry about a situation that he has no control over.

 

"Because I—I just can't. I can't stand to see that happen to anyone else," Aziraphale says with a heavy sigh. He reaches out, bracing his hands on the demon's biceps. "I can't do that. Not when there's potential for him to change. Not when he was doing as She had instructed. Because She left us, Crowley. None of us have seen her in... Well, I don't rightly know how long. I haven't heard Her since She asked me what I'd done with that blasted sword back at the wall. It didn't seem fair to punish him with something so cruel when all he'd been doing was his best to do what She had asked of him, even if he hadn't done it the right way. I don't regret stopping it. And if I'd been there when you—I mean, if I could've—if somehow..."

 

If he could've spared Crowley the pain of Falling, he'd have given anything to do so. Any part of him. All of him. Crowley sighs loudly, some of the anger trickling out of him as Aziraphale anxiously dances around the subject. He reaches up, prying one of Aziraphale's hands-free and lifting it to his face to kiss the angel's open palm.

 

"I wouldn't have let you, angel," Crowley says. "That's not something I want you to do for me."

 

Aziraphale flexes his fingers, brushing them against the demon's cheek. Of course, Crowley would never wish for him to do something like that. He would never wish for Aziraphale to take his place, to spare him any pain. It doesn't mean the angel wouldn't try to do it anyway.

 

"My point is that it hurt you. It still hurts you, to the point that you won't even talk to me about it," Aziraphale says, watching as the demon's eyes cut away from him briefly. "And knowing how much pain it causes... I couldn't bear to think of standing back and watching it happen to anyone else. I suppose I'm just too squeamish when it comes to these things. So really, it's—it's less for Gabriel and more for my own comfort."

 

Crowley studies him carefully, slitted pupils expanding and contracting in the cozy lighting of the shop. After several long moments, he seems to reach some sort of conclusion as he steps into Aziraphale's personal space, wrapping his arms around the angel's shoulders and burying his face against his neck. Aziraphale can't help but melt into his embrace, unable to resist it, the sensation of having Crowley pressed against him a heady feeling even now. He lets out a long, slow sigh, his arms lazily circling the demon's trim waist as he pulls him closer.

 

"You're a terrible liar," Crowley says in his ear.

 

"I am a perfectly good liar," Aziraphale asserts. "Well... I mean in situations where one must lie in order to—"

 

"Alright, alright, I'm sorry I even said it," Crowley groans.

 

They stand there for a few moments longer before Aziraphale says, "You should know, I'm not attempting to ignore Gabriel's past actions. It's all very... complicated. Believe me, I'm as uncomfortable as you are, but I'd still rather this than the alternative. I understand, though, if you would rather not be involved. I can do my best to—"

 

"No," Crowley says, cutting him off. "It's part of my punishment, too. Something tells me if I slack off, I'll get more than just a talking to."

 

"Likely so," Aziraphale hums thoughtfully. He waits the length of several heartbeats before he adds, "I don't need you to fight my battles, my dear. I understand you may wish to but... trust me, please, won't you?"

 

He feels Crowley tense, knowing that urge to bite back, to argue, had been prodded back to life like a hot coal. But it never comes. The demon breathes out slowly, his grip on Aziraphale tightening briefly before he pulls back.

 

"Let's just sit for now, yeah?" he asks.

 

He wants to argue his point, Aziraphale can tell. But he holds back, perhaps tired of this back and forth himself. They migrate over to the sofa, arranging themselves comfortably and settling together. Crowley is still angry, Aziraphale knows. It's likely he'll hold onto that anger for some time; he's always had very staunch opinions of Gabriel regarding his interactions with Aziraphale. Gabriel has been... well, mean. He's been cold and cruel and purposefully so. But the thing of it is, none of the things Gabriel has said or done would hurt nearly so much if Aziraphale didn't on some level believe them himself.

 

He's not a good angel. He never has been. Really, he can't even hide behind the excuse of having done his best, because he can't claim to have always done so. Aziraphale is a million things an angel shouldn't be; hedonistic, fanciful, soft. Frankly, he finds it something of a wonder that Phanuel hadn't condemned him to Fall. He'd fully been expecting it. After all, if the Archangel Gabriel had been deemed to be in the wrong, surely Aziraphale must be that one hundredfold.

 

But that punishment had never come. There are so many questions that he doesn't have answers to; Phanuel had left them as quickly as they'd come before he had the mind to ask any of them. Was this the Almighty's decision? Or has Phanuel simply been doing as Gabriel has done and acted on their own authority in an effort to do as She had asked? Aziraphale doesn't know. He has a feeling he won't get his answers any time soon.

 

"I think," Aziraphale says suddenly, "that he truly wanted you to do it."

 

Gabriel. The way he had looked after Aziraphale had separated them, the disappointment in his eyes. Stubborn and prideful though he is, he'd worn his shame draped about his shoulders like an old shawl and seemed to make no effort to throw it off. Perhaps in his mind, it was easier to face his own destruction than it was his shame.

 

"Please do not tell me you feel sorry for him," Crowley grumbles against his chest.

 

Aziraphale bites his lip. He doesn't want to argue again. Crowley sighs loudly, but it lacks the annoyance the angel had been expecting.

 

"I know you do, angel. It's alright," Crowley declares, seemingly resigned to that fact. He pushes himself up to look Aziraphale in the eye. "But you won't accept any apology from him until he means it—if he ever does. Alright?"

 

"Alright," Aziraphale agrees softly.

 

"Alright?" Crowley presses, watching him carefully.

 

Crowley knows, Aziraphale thinks, that he's liable to fold on that promise. Aziraphale is too eager to please, too eager to smooth things over, so eager to put water under the bridge that he's liable to flood it and drown himself with it instead. Aziraphale knows that, too.

 

Soft.

 

You're too soft.

 

Aziraphale knows this. He does. And yet...

 

"Alright."

 

He can do better. They can all do better. And they will.

Chapter Text

Aziraphale is tired.

 

This in itself is worrisome enough; as an immortal, celestial being he typically has very little need for sleep. Nor does he care for it all that much. But on top of this, he finds he's developed, well... a tickle in the back of his throat. He only notices after several attempts to clear his throat had turned into a cough. A loud one at that.

 

But he doesn't get sick. Angels don't get sick, that's one of the perks of being immortal. Of course, they can be inebriated and the like, but they have the choice of immediately sobering up, unlike humans. Essentially, the moment they chose not to be something, it was so.

 

Yet it seems he's growing ill and unable to rid himself of it.

 

He tried miracling it away but something just wasn't working. For a moment he wondered if perhaps his ability to perform miracles had been cut off by Heaven, but a quick snap of his fingers doused all the lights in the shop and flipped the OPEN sign to CLOSED. Not that, then. So what was different? What had changed since he'd first been sent to Earth that could account for this kind of development?

 

"...oh dear," Aziraphale murmurs to his empty shop. "Could it be...?"

 

He'd been discorporated. And while he'd gotten a new body, it had come from Adam, not from Heaven. Is it possible that the boy could have made him more human than he was intended to be? If this weren't a standard-issue vessel, so to speak, did that leave him vulnerable to something like a cold?

 

"What a headache," he sighs.

 

Speaking of which, he's developing one very rapidly, he finds. He needs to come up with a solution to this problem—likely needs to get in contact with his, ahem, godson—but perhaps... perhaps he'll just lie down first. Just for a moment.

 


 

Typically when they hadn't seen each other for days or weeks or years, Crowley didn't think much of it. They both had their own business to attend to and it wasn't unusual that they wouldn't cross paths for some time. But now that he and the angel were on Hell and Heaven's respective naughty lists, days of radio silence from Aziraphale had him worried.

 

After failing to catch him on the phone after several attempts, Crowley had decided something wasn't right. Aziraphale always answered his calls, if he were able to do so. Especially these days.

 

The CLOSED sign does little to stop him, as a quick snap of his fingers grants him access to the shop, the door swinging shut behind him. The shop is dark, the blinds drawn and the lamps doused. It's... odd. The shop is nearly always alight, whether open or not, as Aziraphale can usually be found perched at his desk in study or otherwise straightening his collection according to whatever mad system he had.

 

"Aziraphale?"

 

The demon's cautious call had emerged in a far quieter voice than he had intended and he can’t help but be annoyed by that fact. It’s not as though he’s afraid or anything. And if he’s trying to find the angel, it makes no sense to keep his voice down. 

 

“Angel, are you in here?” he calls, louder this time.

 

Again he receives no answer. He decides to snoop around, just to be sure, striking off in the direction of the Principality’s desk where it sat on the east end of the shop. He finds the desk neat and tidy, but unfortunately empty. He finds the same of several shelves of books and the back room. Which really only left the angel’s flat to be explored.

 

Crowley has never been in Aziraphale’s flat. Not because he thought the angel wouldn’t offer to let him inside if he wished, but rather that most of their time together was easily spent in the shop’s backroom, with nothing pushing them to go any further. It feels just the slightest bit of an invasion of privacy to enter without Aziraphale’s express consent, but he supposes he can be forgiven if it’s for the sake of checking the resident’s well-being.

 

The flat is tidily kept, if on the smaller side (compared to Crowley’s in any case). Despite the angel’s often indulgent nature, he still remained humble in some regards, his living space apparently being one of them. It’s small but comfortable, the worn-looking sofa and softly ticking grandfather clock just some of the touches that made the space truly feel like Aziraphale’s. The color scheme seems to match that of Aziraphale’s dress; all soft shades of tans and blues and tartan patterned. There’s a faint scent of apples and cinnamon in the air and the notion tickles him somewhat. But he’s not here to look around.

 

“Aziraphale?” he calls once more.

 

This time he does get an answer, just not one he’d been expecting. A cough. A rather loud, long, rattling sort of cough from a nearby room. Now that is definitely not right. Curious and feeling a different sort of concern replace the kind he’d arrived with, Crowley pushes onward, down the hall and to the one occupied bedroom. He can see at once that the bed is occupied, the covers pulled up over whoever is lying in it. Aziraphale, he hopes.

 

“Didn’t you hear me calling for you?” Crowley asks, striding forward.

 

The second he’s reached the foot of the bed, it’s plain to see that the angel hadn’t. He’s curled up beneath the duvet, shivering despite it and breathing in a soft wheeze occasionally punctuated by a rough cough that seems to rock his entire vessel. He looks... sick. But that can’t be right. They don’t get sick.

 

“Hey, angel,” Crowley tries again, crouching down.

 

He feels compelled to reach out, to assure himself that he’s seeing what he’s seeing. His fingers are met by a radiating heat when they touch the angel’s forehead and he’s sweating as though he’s been sat in a sauna for the past hour. But the moment Crowley’s hand is on his head, a great, shuddering sigh leaves him, as though even the slight difference in temperature the demon’s skin provides is a welcome relief.

 

“Aziraphale,” Crowley says, pushing his hand back through sweat-damp curls. “Can you hear me?”

 

The Principality certainly makes an effort at answering him. He does manage to open his eyes on the third or fourth attempt, his typically vibrant blue-hazel looking too bright with fever. He blinks sluggishly, staring at Crowley as though he isn’t quite sure he’s seeing him.

 

“Crowley?”

 

Even his voice is rough, sounding as though it had been dragged over sandpaper before reaching Crowley’s ears.

 

“Yeah,” Crowley says. “You haven’t been answering my calls. What’s going on here angel?”

 

“Sick,” Aziraphale says, clearing his throat. This rapidly dissolves into another bout of coughing and Crowley finds himself tempted to try and hold him down before he dislodges himself from his bed. The angel wheezes heavily for several seconds before tacking on, “...I think.”

 

“I think we can do away with 'I think'," Crowley agrees. "Hold on, have you fixed up in a moment."

 

Crowley snaps his fingers... and is perplexed when nothing changes. He frowns and tries again, only to be met with the same results. He snaps and snaps and snaps, as though trying to bring a flame to a stubborn lighter, but nothing comes of it. A sudden feeling of anxiety begins to gnaw at him and he snaps his fingers at the angel's nightstand, relieved when the basin and flannel he'd been expecting appeared.

 

"Thought the same thing," Aziraphale snuffles.

 

"What in the Hell is going on with you?" Crowley asks, dipping the flannel into the basin and ringing it out once it was sufficiently wet.

 

"I think... perhaps when Adam separated myself and... and Madame Tracy," Aziraphale begins to explain, his words punctuated by barking coughs. "He may have fashioned my new vessel... to be a bit too... too human."

 

Oh. Well, that would do it then. Adam certainly wouldn't have known that a standard-issue body from Heaven or Hell came with all of these immunities built-in. It would definitely explain the angel's current state. 

 

"Doesn't explain why we can't miracle it away," Crowley points out, folding the flannel neatly in his hands.

 

"Antichrist at Armageddon," Aziraphale says by way of an explanation.

 

"...meaning that something done at the peak of his power trumps our abilities, is what you're saying," Crowley infers.

 

Aziraphale merely nods in response, the brief exchange seeming to cost him energy he didn't have. Crowley places the damp cloth over his forehead, feeling a flutter in his stomach at the soft sigh he receives in return. The angel's eyes have drifted shut once more, though Crowley's certain he's still partially cognizant for the time being.

 

"Have you taken anything?" Crowley wonders.

 

"Mm," Aziraphale hums, the noise sounding odd as it battles against his congestion to emerge.

 

"How long ago?" Crowley asks.

 

"...wrote it down..."

 

Crowley finds a slip of paper on the nightstand beside a bottle of paracetamol and some kind of over the counter cold medicine. It read "Tuesday - 2:45 pm." Crowley clucks his tongue and shakes out an appropriate dose from each bottle, miracling a glass of water into hand.

 

"Right, well that was yesterday so I think it's safe to say you're due," the demon declares. "Up."

 

He watches the angel unsteadily prop himself up on his elbows, shaking like a newborn foal as Crowley hands him the medication and the glass of water. Aziraphale makes a face—either from the taste or pain of swallowing, but likely both—as he takes them, but does so all the same. 

 

"Why didn't you bloody call me?" Crowley wants to know.

 

"I don't need to bother you with... with this," Aziraphale sniffles, settling back down. "I'm not dying."

 

"How would you know?" Crowley points out. "Not like you've ever been sick before."

 

Aziraphale's eyes widen in alarm. "...you don't actually think..."

 

"Well, no," Crowley admits. "But I'm trying to make a point here. What's the sense in handling it alone? And doing an awful job, actually, since you can't even keep yourself properly medicated."

 

"...I suppose you're right," Aziraphale admits.

 

"Right," Crowley says, as though that's decided something. "Scoot over a bit."

 

Undoubtedly Aziraphale means to ask him what he's doing, but as it stands, all that emerges from him is a confused sounding "Bwuh?" Crowley snaps his fingers, his clothing replaced by a pair of black silk pajamas.

 

"I said budge up," Crowley tells him. "Consider me your Nanny for the foreseeable future."

 

"...always liked your Nanny..." Aziraphale mumbles as he makes room for the demon.

 

Crowley can't help but smirk. "I'll bet you did."

 

It says something that the angel doesn't seem to have the energy to get flustered by that comment the way he usually would. He simply makes room for Crowley before curling up on his side and trying to drift off again. Crowley lies on his side facing him, requiring very little effort to get Aziraphale tucked close to his side, his head pressed to the demon's chest. He breathes out another of those soft, comforted sighs as Crowley pets his head, fingers passing through white-gold curls with a fondness reserved only for him.

 

...until the moment is broken by a startled yelp from Aziraphale.

 

"Quit touching me, your feet are cold," the Principality sniffles miserably.

 

"Well it's cold out in case you hadn't noticed," Crowley informs him. "Calm down, it's not going to kill you."

 

Aziraphale mumbles something to the contrary but doesn't offer much push back other than this. In short order, Crowley finds himself with his arms full of a slumbering angel. It's an unusual position to be in, being that Aziraphale rarely sleeps and that they hadn't exactly progressed this far yet... but not a bad one. Admittedly Crowley was hoping to get into the angel's bed when he was of sound enough mind to invite him, but this isn't a situation either of them could have accounted for. He's in no rush to hurry their relationship along, perfectly content to move at whatever pace suits them both—so hopefully, the angel won't be too upset to find a demon in his bed once his head clears.

 

Although he'd made light of it earlier, Crowley is rather worried. It may be something as simple as a cold, but the fact that Aziraphale has it at all is troubling. As soon as he's well, Crowley plans to meet with their godson to see about straightening this all out. For now, he lies and waits and watches the angel sleep hours away.

 

It isn't as though neither of them has suffered worse than a cold, but that doesn't mean Crowley has to enjoy watching Aziraphale cough and wheeze and burn hotter than coal, pressed against his side and fidgeting through fever dreams. He passes his fingers over the angel's temples, willing away whatever unpleasant images that have pulled his sleeping countenance into such a troubled frown. He hears a quiet whimper; a barely-there noise that almost sounds like his name as Aziraphale winds his fist in the demon's pajama top.

 

Another brush of his fingers softens Aziraphale's expression into something more at ease, chasing away whatever it is that seemed to have troubled him so. Crowley can't help but wonder what it is. What kind of nightmares does an angel have? More importantly: what kind of nightmares does this one have? He's not sure that Aziraphale would tell him if he asked.

 

"...Crowley?"

 

The scratchy sound of the angel's voice catches him off guard; he hadn't realized he'd woken.

 

"Hm?"

 

"You're here?"

 

"Yeah, I'm here."

 

"Staying...?"

 

"Only if you want me to, angel."

 

"Please..."

 

"Alright."

 

So he does.

 


 

The next time Aziraphale wakes (that he can recall, in any case) he's feeling markedly better than he had previously. His cough still lingers, but it doesn't seem to rock him from head to toe as it had before. Breathing has grown significantly easier and he no longer feels as though his head's been stuffed with cotton.

 

As he slowly comes to, he realizes that he's not alone. There's a brief spike of anxiety that shoots through him before the memories trickle back to him, keeping him from bolting upright. That's right. Crowley had come. Glancing up, he finds the demon to be snoring softly, apparently the combination of a bed and body warmth too enticing for him not to take a nap. 

 

Crowley had taken care of him. From what little he recalls, he knows that much. He hadn't needed to, Aziraphale certainly would've lived, but he'd opted to anyway. Aziraphale has seen Crowley sleeping before, as the demon is rather fond of it, but he can't say he's ever seen Crowley look quite this relaxed before. Despite sharing a bed with a counterpart who must have been insufferable to listen to sneeze and cough and hack for hours on end, Crowley seems entirely at peace.

 

Aziraphale can't help but take a moment to admire him in this state, this sort of soft glow you wouldn't find anywhere other than a bed. They hadn't shared one yet but it feels... good. Right. It feels comfortable in a way Aziraphale frankly hadn't expected. And for a moment, any aches and pains he's feeling, any self-consciousness or worry all faded into the background. Aziraphale is not the best of angels, nor is he treated as such, but looking up into the slumbering face of his partner he wouldn't hesitate to say he is blessed. He is rich in ways other angels could not understand, nor could he explain to them.

 

And at the end of the day, having a cold is not quite so terrible after all. If it comes with perks like this, it's something he could certainly learn to live with.

Chapter Text

Crowley groans in annoyance as he watches Aziraphale roll a condom onto himself.

 

"Patience, my dear," Aziraphale hums.

 

"My patience isn't the problem," Crowley grumbles.

 

Aziraphale shoots him a look of confusion. Not that Crowley can particularly blame him for not knowing what the issue is. The first time they'd slept together, Aziraphale had insisted on using a condom, saying something or other about safe sex practices. At the time, Crowley had found it amusing and oddly endearing and so he had gone along with it. It's just that Aziraphale had continued to insist on using them ever since and Crowley has grown tired of it all.

 

"The condom," Crowley says. "Take. It. Off."

 

Aziraphale blinks slowly. "Take it off?"

 

"Angel, there's nothing we could possibly transmit to one another that a human condom could prevent," Crowley says dryly.

 

"You don't know that for sure," Aziraphale reasons uncertainly.

 

"I promise that in the event I am destroyed by coming into contact with your holy seed, it will have been worth it and you will have earned the right of saying you'd told me so," Crowley says with a smirk.

 

Aziraphale's brow draws down into an agitated frown. Crowley knows he's taken it just a step too far. The angel is about to get bitchy. The demon sighs in annoyance as he's proven right and Aziraphale miracles away anything between his legs before sliding to the edge of the bed and beginning to pull his trousers back on.

 

"Oh, come on now, don't be a killjoy," Crowley wheedles. "It was a joke."

 

"I'm glad you think this is all so amusing," Aziraphale declares, his tone snippy. "Well, it seems the rest of your night's schedule has suddenly cleared so you'll have plenty of time to laugh it up."

 

"Aziraphale," Crowley says, grabbing his partner by the wrist. He tugs until the angel is seated on the bed once more. "It really was just a joke, honestly."

 

"And as I said, I'm glad you find it so amusing," Aziraphale answers, refusing to look at him.

 

...oh. This is actually bothering him. Fuck. Well, now it looks like he'll have to clean up the mess he's made. Crowley sits himself up, shifting towards the edge of the bed until he's sitting behind the angel. He presses a kiss to the soft, pale flesh of his shoulder before resting his chin there, encouraged when Aziraphale makes no move to dislodge him. 

 

"Why are you so sure it would hurt me?" Crowley asks him.

 

Aziraphale looks down at his hands as he wrings them anxiously in his lap. "I don't know, I just... We don't know. We can't be certain that I won't."

 

"Not unless we try," Crowley reasons. "Come on, everything we've done and you think this is gonna be what does me in?"

 

Aziraphale doesn't answer. Crowley decides they need a different approach.

 

"Alright, look at it this way," Crowley says. "Do your tears harm me?"

 

"...not in this form, no," Aziraphale says slowly.

 

"Right," Crowley says. "And you've blubbered on my shoulder enough that we would know."

 

The comment earns him a soft chuckle. Good. He hasn't lost the night to this after all, then.

 

"So wouldn't it stand to reason that—while in this form—you're incapable of harming me unless you make an effort to do so?" Crowley asks. "Not to mention that come and pre-come are essentially the same and we've both certainly had that on us."

 

The angel's face has steadily grown pinker and pinker as Crowley reasons with him. Not tempts, no, he would never do that to the angel here. If Aziraphale takes him to bed it's only ever going to be because he wants it. The demon repositions himself, angling his face inward so long canines can scrape at the sensitive flesh of the angel's neck. Aziraphale shivers at the attention, tilting his head and granting Crowley better access.

 

"I need to feel you come inside me, angel," Crowley says. "Or I just might reduce this bed to ash."

 

Aziraphale's muffled groan tells him he wants this as much as Crowley does. It's just fear holding him back, as is often the case. Though the angel fashions himself a coward, Crowley never could quite see it that way; he doesn't know if you can call it cowardice when what you fear is hurting someone else. 

 

"...you really don't think anything will happen?" Aziraphale frets.

 

"I think a great many things will happen," Crowley replies. "Nothing bad, though."

 

Aziraphale smacks him lightly on the hand. "Be serious, please."

 

"Do I look like I'm in a hurry to be discorporated?" Crowley asks.

 

"You tell me," Aziraphale says flatly. "Not ten minutes ago, I believe you said it would be worth it."

 

Ah. He had said that, hadn't he? Usually, his comedic timing was more up to snuff.

 

"Not that it wouldn't be a Hell of a send-off," Crowley says with a faint grin. "But I plan on sticking around to enjoy you now that I have you. I'm asking you to trust me."

 

Seconds tick by in silence as Aziraphale seems to deliberate. Just when Crowley thinks that perhaps they're going to have to save it for another night, the angel twists his body towards him. He reaches up, cupping the back of Crowley's neck and pulling him in for a kiss. Aziraphale isn't shy about it, either. He kisses the demon with the kind of hunger that would lead you to believe they'd never been interrupted in the first place. 

 

Aziraphale pushes Crowley back onto the bed, shucking his trousers somewhere along the way and taking his place between the demon's legs. Crowley is still more than sufficiently prepared to take him and he's thankful that his angel doesn't bother to waste any more time. As he feels the press of his cock against him, all he can think is: finally, finally, finally.

 

They may have had sex before, but the feeling of his lover's first slow push inside him feels new and exciting tonight. It feels electric. He wiggles his hips when Aziraphale pauses, trying to coax him into moving. And Aziraphale does. He rocks into him just a little bit at a time, as he always does, whether to give Crowley time to acclimate or to drive him mad, the demon can never quite tell. But at last, after what feels like an eternity he draws flush with Crowley's rear, pressed as deeply inside of him as he can possibly go.

 

"Yessssss," Crowley hisses, raking his nails across the pale skin of his partner's back, leaving raised pink lines in their wake.

 

His legs are crossed around the angel's waist, his heels digging into the small of his back as if he could take him somehow deeper still. He can feel the throb of the cock inside him, twitching at the new sensations brought by removing the barrier previously between them. And it's so good. So horrifyingly good that he can't imagine allowing the angel to leave the bed for at least the coming day.

 

"Oh, Crowley," Aziraphale moans in his ear, holding himself where he is, drinking in the feel of it. "Oh, darling you feel exquisite."

 

Fuck. Fuck. It's something Crowley has found he has a bit of a thing for; even in bed Aziraphale's words are pretty, lovely things that fall from his lips like petals from a flower.

 

"Go on," Crowley huffs eagerly. "Let me feel you, too."

 

Aziraphale doesn't need to be told twice. Crowley has found the angel indulges in their sexual exploits much the same way he does his food; namely with the kind of ardor and enthusiasm that would put the greatest of Casanovas and Don Juans to shame. He takes Crowley in a manner that leaves him feeling loved and adored no matter how they lie together. Even when Aziraphale fucks him—and he has, hard and fast and relentless—that feeling is still with him. Perhaps that's what Crowley likes most of all; being so surrounded in the angel's love for him that it's inescapable, that he's wont to drown in it.

 

The angel's hands wander, gliding down his sides, thumbs brushing along Crowley's ribcage with the sort of tender reverence that would lead you to believe he's never once touched him before. But it's always like this. Aziraphale always touches him with the same care he would a rare, priceless book—as though Crowley is something to be preserved and cherished, something of true value instead of just a demon. Even as he anchors his hands on Crowley's hips to hold him in place, there is love there.

 

Love bites are a new fascination of Aziraphale's. Both giving and receiving them. They could heal them at a moment's notice, but Aziraphale had admitted he rather enjoyed having Crowley mark him. Based on the way he's sucking a welt into the skin above the demon's collarbone, he plans on leaving more than one or two tonight. Not that Crowley minds. He certainly doesn't mind when Aziraphale is so eager to mark him as his own, to have some small badge of ownership to stake his claim. Because Aziraphale wants Crowley. It's something that sets the demon's mind reeling when he stops long enough to think about it. 

 

"You're beautiful, my dear, do you know that?" Aziraphale asks, kissing along his jawline.

 

Crowley swallows thickly, his mouth feeling like it's glued shut. It feels like he can never think of what to say to him when he says these things. But the way he suddenly tightens around the angel's cock undoubtedly gives him an idea of what Crowley thinks of it.

 

"You are," Aziraphale assures him, reaching between them. Crowley moans as Aziraphale takes him in hand, stroking him in time with his thrusts. "I adore you. I adore every moment with you. You give everything meaning in this... this unending life of ours..."

 

Crowley can tell he's holding back, still clinging to the last vestiges of fear that he could hurt the demon in any way. They've hurt each other before, it's true. In many ways, in many times and places, across what should be many lifetimes. But not here. No, Aziraphale could never hurt him here. He knows that, feels it at the core of his very being. Crowley isn't very far off himself and he feels the need to say something, to remind the angel that he'll be just fine. To reassure him that he can't hurt him. But he finds himself robbed of the chance when Aziraphale presses their foreheads together and speaks, hushed and wrecked and loving.

 

"I trust you."

 

That's all it takes to tip Crowley over the edge, his legs locking around Aziraphale as he spills over the angel's fist and onto his own stomach. He cries out as Aziraphale gives a final half dozen thrusts before he pushes deep, deep inside him, pulsing heat going straight to his very core, filling him in a way that he's ached for nearly since they'd met. Aziraphale ruts into him as Crowley trembles through his release, sucking breath in through clenched teeth and holding onto his partner so tightly his fingers will likely leave bruises. Eventually, the crescendo begins to wane, both of them holding onto one another in the dim light of Crowley's bedroom. The angel kisses him slow and wet as he rocks into him, seemingly intent on making Crowley take every last drop as he pours himself inside of the demon, just as he'd wished.

 

"So perfect," Aziraphale tells him between kisses. "All of you. Every bit."

 

"Flatterer," Crowley says, still catching his breath, still reveling in the feeling of his partner's release inside him.

 

Aziraphale nuzzles him gently. "I want you to know that I love you, Crowley. I don't think I'll ever be able to say it or express it enough. What I feel for you is more than there are words to describe but I'll keep trying. Because you deserve to know this, to know how dearly I love you."

 

Crowley swallows and nods. "...I know."

 

He knows Aziraphale doesn't expect him to say anything back right now. Crowley prefers action instead and leans forward just enough to press his lips to the angel's forehead in a kiss. They settle there, still feeling rather boneless and content for the moment to not move an inch. Aziraphale's head rests on Crowley's chest as he gently traces the demon's ribs with his fingers. Eventually, even that slows to a halt and Crowley wonders if perhaps Aziraphale has begun to drift off—he knows he's certainly beginning to. But a drowsy question lets him know Aziraphale is still awake for the time being.

 

"After we've had a nap, do you suppose we could do me next?"

 

Crowley threads his fingers through white-gold curls and laughs.