They celebrate the survival of the world, as they do most things, by getting incredibly, viciously drunk.
They’re at Crowley’s flat because although Aziraphale’s bookstore has been restored, it still smells faintly of smoke and it makes for poor drinking. If he’s being truthful - which is something he tries to be as little as often - Crowley doesn’t mind. The plants like Aziraphale, which he probably shouldn’t encourage, but he’s drunk and cheerful and feeling incredibly benevolent.
They’d survived. The world had survived. And, somehow, in a miracle that surpasses both of them, they survived together.
Crowley doesn’t think he can be blamed for getting a little sentimental over it all. He’d had a really rough week; possibly the roughest of his interminably long existence.
They’re drinking one of Crowley’s best bottles, a particularly well-aged merlot, that he’d been saving for a special occasion, and he can think of precious few occasions more special than the saving of the world, a dawning of a new age; Aziraphale, whole and well and listing drunkenly into his side.
“Oh dear,” Aziraphale says, laughing as he nearly topples clean out of one of the fashionable but not particularly comfortable bar stools that line the breakfast nook. “I rather think that this new body has lost its tolerance, you know? Fresh liver and all that.”
“You never had any tolerance,” Crowley says, more fondly than he would have liked. He reaches out to right him, giving Aziraphale a hearty shove, but all that seems to accomplish is making him lean out of his space for all of a second before he’s back again, their shoulders knocking. Crowley sighs.
“I don’t think the corporeal forms heaven designs were intended for excess,” Aziraphale says. “Perhaps designed specifically to discourage it, in fact.”
Crowley has no idea how Aziraphale’s vocabulary never seems to erode away beneath the really quite excellent influence of alcohol. If anything, it tends to grow sharper, expanding to fill the void his common sense recedes from.
“It’s a good thing that you’re not listening much to heaven these days then,” Crowley says, generously refilling Aziraphale’s half-empty glass. The wine looks especially red in the bright lights of his largely empty apartment.
Aziraphale lifts the glass to his mouth, smiling at Crowley from behind the rim of it. “I don’t think I was perhaps very good at listening to heaven even when I was supposed to be,” he confides, as if it’s a great big secret and not something Crowley has known as an innate part of him for as long as they’ve been tripping over each other in one century or another.
“Is that so?” Crowley asks, amused. “Doesn’t sound particularly angelic of you.”
Aziraphale’s cheeks are ruddy, the way he gets when he’s walking Crowley’s favourite line between carelessly drunk and too drunk to care at all. It’s a good look on him. It’s been a good look on him for thousands of years.
“I did try,” he says.
“You did not,” Crowley says. “The very first thing you did when God invented man was give away your flaming sword.”
“Why does everybody keep bringing that up?” Aziraphale says rather morosely. “That was a very long time ago. They were cold, Crowley. It would have been more unangelic to leave them be.”
Crowley rather disagrees. Nobody does dismissive, callous cruelty like an angel, like heaven. Aziraphale’s mood is too good to burst though, and Crowley is not in the mindset for a lengthy theological debate. All he wants right now is a good drink and better company.
He plucks his own glass from the bench, knocking it back in a way that does not particularly complement the subtle flavour of the wine. He waits to hear Aziraphale sigh, looking forward to his inevitable lecture about ‘you have to savour it, really, Crowley, sometimes gluttony isn’t the answer’ but it does not come. Disheartened, he peeks over the edge of his glass.
Aziraphale is watching him, an elbow on the bench to hold himself upright in a dreadful lack of decorum he’d never permit sober. His wineglass is loose in his fingers, forgotten, and he’s staring at Crowley as if he’s just had a monumental realization of some sort.
Crowley, who has long become familiar with the trouble that particular expression promises, reluctantly asks, “What now?”
“I think,” says Aziraphale with the confidence of a man three glasses deep into a particularly excellent bottle of wine, “that we should have sex.”
Crowley’s whole world is knocked off its axis. Six thousand years it’s spun largely uninterrupted, and one sentence from Aziraphale has caused it to stutter and stop. He says, in a voice that sounds remarkably winded for somebody who doesn’t need to breathe, “You what?”
“You don’t think so?” Aziraphale says blithely. He lifts his glass, taking an unselfconscious drink. Crowley cannot stop staring.
“It’s not that - that wasn’t - you think we should have sex?” Crowley points between the both of them with his own glass, spilling half the wine over his clean kitchen floor. He barely notices. “Us? You and me?”
Aziraphale frowns at him, and for somebody’s sake, he looks disappointed. Crowley does not know where to begin understanding that expression. “Well, only if you want to, of course. You needn’t look so perturbed.”
“Perturbed!” Crowley rockets rather unsteadily to his feet, clutching at the counter for balance as he sways. Alarmed, Aziraphale leans backwards. “You don’t think suddenly propositioning me - drunk - after six thousand years might perturb me, angel?”
Aziraphale’s frown deepens. “Perhaps I better sober up,” he suggests. “And we can -.”
“No,” Crowley blurts as reality finally begins to reassert itself. He grabs Aziraphale’s glass and jams it back into his hands. “No, in fact, I think you should keep drinking, really.”
“If that’s -.”
Crowley snatches the nearly finished bottle and swallows like a teenager at their first university party. Distantly, he can hear Aziraphale’s fondly disapproving tone as he says, “Really, my dear, must you?”
“Yes,” Crowley snaps, wiping his mouth. He goes to set the bottle down and misses the bench. It vanishes before it can shatter on the floor. “Come on, finish your drink. You want to have sex? Then let’s have sex.”
Aziraphale’s dampened expression clears. He’s too drunk to be even slightly bothered by Crowley’s rapid mood swings, which is just as well because he’s about as observant as a brick wall like this. Still, he says, “Only if you’re sure.”
Crowley is barely sure that this is actually happening, that he hasn’t slipped into some universe adjacent to but entirely different than their own, but he says, “Of course I am. When have you ever known me to do something I don’t want to do?”
That seems to soothe the last of Aziraphale’s concerns. He gives Crowley a distinctively unholy smile and tosses back the last of the wine as if it’s water, no savouring to be found. He primly sets his glass down and turns back to face him, reaching out to snag Crowley’s jacket. “Well,” he says, “shall we?”
Crowley does not dream - cannot dream - but in the eighties he’d had a truly brilliant acid trip in the back room of a biker bar and the hallucination had been a lot like this. Aziraphale pressed up against him, the pleasant warmth of his body, the startling fondness in his eyes. Even after all this time - and there really has been quite a lot of it - the idea that anybody could look at Crowley like that still rather floors him.
Demons, by nature, are not vessels of goodwill. Although Crowley does not and has never considered himself a garden (ha!) variety demon, he’s still a paragon of sin, the antithesis of everything Aziraphale stands for, whether he’s all that committed to the angel shtick these days or not.
The fact is, although Crowley knows it’s true, he’s always struggled to comprehend that Aziraphale likes him, in whatever measure that ‘like’ is.
“Right.” He reaches out to wrap his long fingers around Aziraphale’s wrist. They’re both swaying slightly. “Best get on with it then,” he says, and hurriedly leans down to kiss Aziraphale before he can think about it hard enough to change his mind.
Kissing doesn’t seem like it should feel like much. It’s just two people bumping mouths and hoping it can convey a level of intimacy that surpasses language. Crowley has been in proximity to enough humans to know that they enjoy this, and thus that it must be good for something, but he’s always treated the subject with both a cautious degree of curiosity and a healthy dose of skepticism.
He is, for the first time in centuries, surprised to find himself wrong.
Aziraphale’s mouth is wet and clumsy. Their teeth bump, as do their noses, before Crowley thinks to angle his head just a half inch to the left. It makes a world of difference, and a delighted hot thrill shoots through him from head to toe just as Aziraphale makes a muffled, surprised noise.
“Oh,” Aziraphale says, pulling back even as Crowley grapples to keep him from doing just that. He beams at him drunkenly. “That was better than I thought. Very good.”
Crowley wonders if he ought to be offended that Aziraphale had apparently imagined him a bad kisser, but he’s too blown away by the notion that Aziraphale imagined this at all. He tries for a crooked smile and it’s only centuries of practice that pull it all together. “Good enough to be tempted to try it again?”
Aziraphale’s smile is positively radiant. “Very much so.”
With the second kiss, Crowley has enough wits about himself to actually try and make it good. He cups Aziraphale’s face, trying his hardest to come off as suave rather than desperate. He thinks he does a rather admirable job of keeping his hands from trembling, honestly.
This kiss lasts longer. Possibly a small eternity. Neither of them need to breathe, so when Crowley thinks to pull back a whole day could have passed and they wouldn’t have noticed.
Aziraphale’s face is flushed. He’s still sitting on Crowley’s wobbling kitchen stool, and when he makes to get to his feet he stumbles. It’s only Crowley’s hand catching his elbow that keeps him from the floor. “Alright, angel?”
“Yes,” Aziraphale says sounding almost as unsteady as he looks. “Perhaps we should take this elsewhere?”
Aziraphale gives him a pointed but vaguely amused look. “Your bedroom, Crowley.”
Oh. Oh. “Yes,” Crowley says. “Yes, you’re right. Let’s just…”
He doesn’t mean to miracle them both there, but at least they land on the bed and not the floor, which is better than how his usual drunk miracles go.
“Really, Crowley,” Aziraphale huffs as he throws a hand out to keep himself steady atop the mattress. “Are you sure we shouldn’t sober -.”
The third kiss becomes the fourth becomes the fifth - Aziraphale doesn’t push him away, even though a small heavily guarded part of Crowley is constantly braced for it. Aziraphale shows no signs of wanting to, pulls him nearer and tighter and smiles delightedly whenever his mouth is free for more than a moment.
It’s so wretchedly endearing that Crowley wants to break something.
Aziraphale cards a hand gently through his hair and asks, breathless, “Have you done this before?”
Crowley pauses what he’s doing to give him an incredulous look. “Have I - of course I haven’t done this before. Who the bloody hell would I do it with?”
“Oh good,” Aziraphale says, sounding inexplicably relieved. “Me neither.” He pulls Crowley back in even though Crowley is trying his hardest to get the stubborn buttons on Aziraphale’s shirt open, his hands far too shaky.
Crowley isn’t even all that drunk anymore. The nerves have burnt it all away, which is a pity because this is probably the one damn time in his life where he could use the crutch. Finally, the buttons slip free and Crowley’s hands glide up Aziraphale’s wonderfully naked chest.
Aziraphale jumps beneath his fingers, wincing.
“What?” Crowley asks, abruptly pulling back.
“No, it’s just - your hands really are quite cold, my dear.” Aziraphale squirms up the bed, mussing the sheets as he goes. His fine fingers wrap around Crowley’s wrists and he guides the press of his palms back to his skin. “I didn’t mean for you to stop.”
Crowley stares at him, rather stupidly he assumes. “You’re bossier than I would have thought.”
“Than you thought?” Aziraphale repeats, and Crowley kicks himself.
“Never mind that,” he says, leaning back in now that he has permission. He pushes, and Aziraphale obediently sinks into the mattress. Crowley slinks atop of him, channeling every ounce of sexuality he’d ever glimpsed from the countless, countless human who’d looked at him once and then thought to look twice. Aziraphale gazes up at him, dazed, hands coming to rest uncertainly on Crowley’s hips.
He thinks about asking Aziraphale one last time if he’s sure about this, now that they’re actually doing it, but he doesn’t. He doesn’t want to give him an opportunity to change his mind, or worse, prod him into it without meaning to. Aziraphale had been the one to suggest it to begin with, and he’s more than capable of saying no if and when he wants to; Crowley doesn’t need to nor does he intend to be delicate about this.
The less time he gives Aziraphale to think, the better. Crowley has been carrying a torch hotter than hellfire for millennia and he’s not about to throw away possibly his only chance to actually get anywhere out of some misplaced desire to be good.
“Crowley?” Aziraphale asks. His thumbs are beneath Crowley’s shirt, brushing his hip bones. “Are you -?”
Crowley kisses him to shut him up. It’s less clumsy this time, both of them figuring out how it works. He’s shocked to find that the initial forbidden thrill from the kitchen has not faded; kissing Aziraphale still gives him a kick to the gut like he’s performed a particularly illicit deed, one way or another morally speaking.
“This was,” Aziraphale says as their mouths part, “an excellent idea.”
He looks smug, cheeks flushed and hair a vibrant shock of white on Crowley’s dark sheets. He’s still drunk, at least more so than Crowley is at this point. He can feel it in the fond, wavering edges of his aura. Crowley could probably convince him anything is an excellent idea right now, but he needn’t bother because Aziraphale already beat him to the only thing he’d be interested in.
“Yes, yes, you’re exceptionally clever,” Crowley says, doing his best to maintain some measure of aloofness even as impatience claws at him desperately. He fumbles with the buttons on Aziraphale’s slacks, fingers tripping over the zip. “Come on, get undressed so we can get this show on the road, angel.”
Aziraphale laughs, struggling upright so he can shrug out of his shirt, reaching over to clumsily help Crowley do the same. It requires rather more coordination than Crowley had thought it would; elbows wind up in bellies, and more than once they nearly slip off the bed because Aziraphale can’t stop giggling long enough to work with Crowley and not against him.
“You can calm down,” Aziraphale says, catching Crowley’s hands. “We don’t need to rush.”
That’s where Aziraphale is wrong though; Crowley absolutely must rush, because there’s no telling when Aziraphale is going to sober up or come to his senses or God might finally consider this just one transgression too many and smite him. It wouldn’t be a bad way to go, cradled between Aziraphale’s soft thighs, kissing him until their lips hurt, but Crowley has rather more plans for him than merely this.
He can feel the low banked arousal of six thousand years beginning to stir in his gut, and having Aziraphale beneath him on the endless sprawl of his bed is enough to stoke it viciously until he might choke on the sudden strength of his longing.
Being an occult being means that, by and large, Crowley does not have to bend to the whims of a mortal body if he does not choose to. Choosing not to feel it does not mean it does not exist though, and now with permission for the first time in millennia to really rebel, his body is throwing itself enthusiastically into the task.
Aziraphale laughs at him as Crowley nearly breaks his neck tripping out of his pants, but it turns to a soft gasp when he finally - finally - manages to get a hand down the front of Aziraphale’s loose trousers.
“Oh,” Aziraphale says faintly, his breath hot on Crowley’s ear. His hands are clutching at Crowley’s shoulders, perfect nails catching in his skin. His voice is faintly choked. “Oh, that feels - that feels lovely.”
“Lovely?” Crowley repeats dubiously. “I don’t know if -.”
The hold on his shoulders tightens as Crowley makes to pull back. “Do not,” Aziraphale says with far more authority than he usually commands, “stop.”
Heat crawls up Crowley’s spine, flushing every inch of skin it touches along the way. Aziraphale is hot and hard in his hand, and the thought that it is Crowley doing this to him, his touch and his presence, is enough to make the tension in his stomach wring tighter still.
“Come on,” Crowley says, tugging at Aziraphale’s waistband. “I’m not going to be the only one sitting here naked like a fool.”
This time, Aziraphale is much more enthusiastic and helpful. Between them they manage to kick the last of their clothes to the floor, and Crowley is sure he’ll regret that later when he has to terrify the creases out of his shirt, but that’s a problem that seems incredibly far away right now. Aziraphale pulls him bossily back to the bed and Crowley follows him down more than willingly.
Aziraphale isn’t shy about showing Crowley where to touch him, about reaching out and skating his own hands along every inch of Crowley’s skin. He’s demanding and attentive and Crowley can barely do anything but watch him with rapt fascination, terrified of missing a second of this rare glimpse of a completely unrestrained Aziraphale, freely enjoying himself and happy.
Crowley’s throat feels strangely tight, and he allows Aziraphale to turn them over, pressing Crowley to the sheets and fumbling to get a hand around them both, awkward but enthusiastic and totally unashamed.
Crowley had thought this would be sacrilege, but when Aziraphale looks at him like that it feels a lot closer to a miracle. Aziraphale’s touch warming his skin is the closest to divine he’s felt in many, many years.
Aziraphale comes first, breath tripping out of him as Crowley presses imaginary bruises into his hips, Aziraphale looming over him. “Oh,” he says, gasping, head tilted down so all Crowley can see is the mess of his hair and the jerk of his hips. He looks as if he’s having a revelation and Crowley understands precisely why a moment later when he follows him over the precipice.
It’s a punch to the gut. Crowley lays there, shocked, clutching Aziraphale desperately as his orgasm is ripped out of him. He can feel Aziraphale running his hands through his hair, the pressure of him laying down beside him, but it’s all so secondary to the intensity of the moment Crowley’s having.
“Alright, dear?” Aziraphale murmurs in his ear, hands on Crowley’s chest, and Crowley is helpless but to nod, hissing softly through his teeth as the world slowly wobbles back into being around him.
It’s a wonder, he thinks, fumbling to get an arm around Aziraphale, that humans have ever managed to get anything at all done if this is what they could be doing at every moment of every day.
Crowley clears his throat. “Well,” he says, as casually as he can manage. He searches for something else to say and comes up blank.
Beside him, Aziraphale sighs. They’re sharing one of Crowley’s abundant pillows, and Aziraphale is on his side, one arm over Crowley’s waist and showing no inclination of moving. His expression looks really quite pleased. “Well indeed,” he says. “I think that went rather nicely.”
Words, Crowley is finding, still seem vastly beyond him right now. “I mean,” he says. Then, losing that train of thought, “It was…”
Aziraphale pats his chest reassuringly. “It certainly was,” he agrees warmly, as if Crowley has managed a full coherent sentence and not just verbal vomit. Generously, he says “You were very good.”
Crowley is reasonably certain that had been intended as a compliment. “Thank you?”
Aziraphale beams at him, and then reaches up, threading his fingers through Crowley’s hair and coaxing him into a kiss. It’s excruciatingly tender, and Crowley is helpless but to return it. Aziraphale pulls away, but not before nipping lightly at Crowley’s bottom lip, startling him. The gleam in his eyes says that had been his intention to begin with, and Crowley, impossible though it seems, feels as if he falls for him just another inch more.
When this whole mess had started, he’d assumed that eventually he’d hit rock bottom. That there wouldn’t be any further to fall when it comes to Aziraphale and Crowley’s ridiculous feelings for him. Since then, he has come to learn that assessment had been incorrect; Crowley’s feelings for Aziraphale are endless, and every tender look, every begrudging laugh Aziraphale grants him, is just another drop in a bottomless well.
“Do you think,” Aziraphale asks thoughtfully, “that we should sleep?”
Crowley hasn’t slept since Armageddon begun. It seemed like an incredible waste of time in the face of everything else. Aziraphale’s hair feels desperately soft against the arm he has beneath his shoulders. “Do you want to?”
“It seems the thing to do,” Aziraphale says. “I wouldn’t mind it.”
“Then sleep,” Crowley says. “I’m not stopping you, angel.”
Aziraphale squirms, rolling over to look at him. The sheer intimacy of it makes Crowley wish he hadn’t left his glasses back in the kitchen. He could use something to hide behind.
“You won’t sleep?”
“Maybe,” Crowley says, noncommittal.
Aziraphale’s eyes are far too knowing for somebody whose breath still smells like a wine cellar. “You’ll stay here though?”
Crowley dodges the question, gesturing about the barren bedroom. “This is my flat, Aziraphale. Where am I going to go?”
That seems to placate him. He settles back into the mattress, his head hitting Crowley’s shoulder. “Do wake me if I oversleep, won’t you?”
“Of course,” Crowley lies.
Aziraphale drops off to sleep with the ease of somebody perfectly in control of the corporeal form he affectionately calls a body. Crowley waits several long minutes until he’s absolutely certain Aziraphale is well and truly oblivious and then he carefully extracts himself from his clutching hands.
It takes a moment to find his clothes on the floor because the first two things he grabs are both Aziraphale’s, but eventually he manages to get dressed, pressing the creases from his shirt with a threatening slide of his hands.
Aziraphale lays in the bed, naked and oblivious. His hair is a complete mess, and there’s a dent in the sheets where Crowley had been. He stares at him for only as long as he can convince himself is appropriate and then he backs out of the room, taking care to close the door quietly behind him as he goes.
Although he certainly intends to, Crowley does not find the time to visit the bookstore the next day.
There’s a lot to do. Now that Armageddon has been neatly avoided, he really should stop in on some minor acquaintances and make sure everything is running smoothly. He needs a new plant too, something to replace the one he’d sacrificed to the garbage disposal the other week. His post box is overflowing with neglected mail - most of it junk - and there’s a few packages he’s been meaning to pick up. All the little things, you know? The things that get neglected when you don’t anticipate the post office still being standing come Wednesday.
He slinks back to his flat just shy of evening and is relieved beyond words to find it empty. Aziraphale had tidied the mess they’d made of the kitchen, the wine glasses sitting clean and polished in their designated cabinet, and the half-finished bottle Crowley had vanished innocuously staring at him from the bench. The bedroom is another beast entirely, and it takes an admirable show of nerves to even peek inside.
Despite his showy fussing with the rest of the flat, Aziraphale had not made the bed. The sheets are a mess and it still smells faintly of sex. There’s a tiny scrap of fabric half kicked under the mattress that upon closer inspection turns out to be Aziraphale’s bow tie.
Crowley cannot tell if this is a deliberate act of passive aggression or whether Aziraphale had simply forgotten it. Crowley stuffs it in his pocket to return to him the next time they meet then thinks about the awkwardness of acknowledging where he had found it and sets it atop the bedside table instead. A moment later it finds its way back into his pocket.
It is not that he does not want to see Aziraphale. He’s a demon, not a coward. It’s just… Crowley has an image to maintain, and sometimes maintaining an image requires a certain degree of understanding when one is not at their best.
It’s possible that only a day after sleeping with Aziraphale for the first time Crowley is just that - not functioning at his best. Worse yet; not presenting himself as being at his best, which is something he always strives for, regardless of the truth of the matter.
If the universe would be so kind as to grant him just a day to get his thoughts in order, Crowley would back in full form shortly. Tip-top shape, as Aziraphale would probably say. It’s just a matter of time, and now that the world is unlikely to be destroyed in the near future, they have plenty of that.
The next day Crowley still does not go to the bookstore.
He’d heard rumours about demonic activity further west, and it’s really prudent that he checks in on that. He’d hate to have company drop by unexpectedly, given their current circumstances and all.
The ‘demonic activity’ turns out to be nothing more than a handful of bored public school students playing a particularly cruel joke in the local park. Crowley makes sure to congratulate them on their initiative, casually suggests a few ideas he’s been mulling over but hasn’t had the chance to perfect himself, and makes it back to London by dinner.
His flat, when he returns to it, is the same as he left it. The bed remains stubbornly unmade. There’s no messages on his answering machine, and he can only suppose Aziraphale is doing his best to give Crowley the space he probably thinks that Crowley wants. That or he’s really regretting their (semi)drunk exploration into human desire. Crowley generously does not allow himself to explore that idea.
On the third day, Crowley runs out of excuses. He also, quite unsurprisingly, runs out of patience.
The ‘Closed’ sign on the shop is proudly display when Crowley arrives, but given that three o’clock on a Friday tends to be a roll of the dice for whether Aziraphale will even bother opening at all he’s not put off. The door’s locked but it opens with minimal coaxing for him, and Crowley can’t be sure if that’s down to his influence or Aziraphale’s.
The store, when he lets the door close behind him, is empty. “Angel?”
There’s the faint sound of movement from the office, and Aziraphale’s voice rings out. “Back here!”
Crowley edges around a particularly precarious stack of what seems to be invaluable first editions and towards the back. He finds Aziraphale hunched over his desk, cold cup of tea at his elbow and glasses propped crookedly on his nose. He’s as put together as always, which is to say barely at all; pleasantly rumpled in that delightful way that has followed him clear across centuries. It’s a stark contrast from the last time Crowley saw him, naked and disheveled in a very different manner.
“Crowley,” Aziraphale says, smiling at him. He picks up his tea, takes a sip, and pulls a face when he realizes it’s grown cold. His fingers tighten along the chipped porcelain and a moment later steam bursts from the rim of it.
“Seems a waste of a miracle, that,” Crowley says, leaning against the doorframe.
Aziraphale arches a brow at him. “Since when do you care about wasting miracles?”
“I don’t,” Crowley says. “But you usually do.”
“Yes. Well.” Aziraphale sets his tea down and clears his throat. He straightens the ridiculous winged handle of his mug. “It doesn’t seem much like anybody’s going to be writing me strongly worded memos anytime soon, does it?”
Crowley lets a grin stretch across his face. “I suppose not,” he allows.
“Not that you should take that as permission to run around doing whatever you please,” Aziraphale warns him. “I’m sure if we create enough havoc somebody’s bound to be obligated to drop in on us.”
“Havoc?” Crowley repeats, doing his best to appear scandalized. “Me?”
Aziraphale sighs, but Crowley is an expert at seeking out his barely suppressed smile by now. “Let’s not test the theory.”
“I’d never,” Crowley says. Silence falls between them and Crowley tucks his hands in his pockets. Aziraphale glances back to his book, taking another sip of tea, and seems quite content to let the conversation rest for a moment. Crowley, who hasn’t been able to let a conversation rest at any point in his life, says, “The other night…”
Aziraphale looks up. If he has any thoughts at all on the manner, Crowley cannot see them in the careful lines of his face. “Yes?”
Crowley pulls his hand from his pocket and holds out the well-worn scrap of fabric that Aziraphale seems to think constitutes a bow tie. “You forgot this.”
Aziraphale considers first Crowley and then the bow tie. “I suppose I did,” he says, and reaches out to take it. Their fingers graze for a moment, and Crowley suddenly has a visceral flashback of those same fingertips pressed hard into his skin. “Thank you.”
Crowley awkwardly tucks himself back a half step. He doesn’t quite know what to say.
Aziraphale, it seems, does not have that problem. He closes his book, being very careful of the age old pages. “You’re staying for tea, yes?”
And Crowley, for all that he’s worth, cannot think of a single reason to say no.
Following both the saving of the world and their one night adventure into experimental sexuality, things both change irrevocably and, in a surprising twist of fate, stay exactly the same.
Aziraphale continues to not sell books in his dusty little store, and Crowley spends his time doing whatever it is he feels like doing at any given moment. London is wet, the ducks in the lake at St James park still eye Crowley suspiciously whenever he stops by, and, despite it all, the earth keeps on spinning.
The difference now, Crowley is finding, is that without the constant wariness of both heaven and hell breathing down their necks, the quiet limitations on what they can and cannot do seem to have evaporated overnight.
There is nobody watching them now, waiting to trip them up at the first sign of a toe out of line. They have, if not permission, then at least an understanding that Crowley and Aziraphale will do whatever they damn well please.
Before this, Crowley might have thought doing whatever he damn well pleased would be a long and laborious list that would take him several mortal lifetimes to get through. Now, with the reality of it spread out before him, it turns out his list isn’t quite so long at all.
When it comes down to it, what Crowley has really wanted for most of his life is simply to live it the way he wants, and that way is alongside Aziraphale.
Before the Antichrist, Crowley was lucky to see Aziraphale once every other decade. The gaps had gotten shorter as the years went on, but never so short as to not be entirely too long. It’d been too risky; you never knew when heaven was going to be lucky enough to be looking in their particular direction at just the wrong moment.
Now there’s nobody looking at all, and Crowley can spend as much time as he likes with Aziraphale and then some. It’s a heady power to have, and Crowley has exactly zero qualms about abusing it ruthlessly. He half expects Aziraphale to be sick of him by the end of the week, but he never seems anything but overjoyed to see him and Aziraphale has never been an exceptionally good actor.
“Being a free agent is rather more boring than I’d thought it would be,” Aziraphale says over dinner one night, almost a week to the day they’d slept together. They’re at his flat, the tiny mess of a one he keeps over the bookstore, and Crowley’s picking at the last of Aziraphale’s mediocre attempt at a roast. While he appreciates the heart that Aziraphale puts into his cooking, he soulfully mourns the complete lack of talent.
“What did you expect?” Crowley asks, dropping his cutlery and instead picking up his glass. “It’s not like you’re exactly out there making the most of it.”
Aziraphale sends him a disapproving look as he gets to his feet, stacking their dishes together. “What’s there to make the most of? I can perform miracles just as well here as I could anywhere else.”
“You still intend to do that?” Crowley asks. “Go out there and -” he waves his glass “- enact heaven’s will?”
“It’s not heaven’s will,” Aziraphale explains patiently. “It’s my miracles - it’s my will. I don’t see why I still can’t go about contributing to the ineffable plan simply because I’m not…” he trails off.
Crowley offers him a smirk around the rim of his glass. “Playing for the winning team anymore?”
“Quite,” Aziraphale agrees. He plucks Crowley’s mostly empty glass from his hand. “Come help me with the dishes, please.” He squeezes Crowley’s shoulder as he passes by, and Crowley does his best not to lean into it and fails. Aziraphale rather kindly does not say anything, vanishing into the kitchen without a backwards glance.
Since they slept together, Aziraphale hasn’t brought it up so much as once, and hell, has Crowley been waiting for him to. It seems the sort of thing that demands to be talked about, whether you want to or not, and Aziraphale is usually the one who trips over himself to discuss these kinds of things.
Instead there hasn’t been a word, a look, an implication. It’s to the point that Crowley might be forgiven for thinking he imagined it, if he were more susceptible to that sort of wish fulfilment fantasy.
Crowley can take a hint at least - whatever it was that had happened, it’d be a once off. Aziraphale had been a little too drunk and a little too curious, and now he was neither of those things. Crowley understands, really he does. He isn’t even all that hurt about it; he should be grateful that of all the people he could have done it with, and the list was endless, that Aziraphale had picked him.
“Crowley?” Aziraphale calls from the kitchen. “A hand, please.”
“I’m coming, I’m coming,” Crowley grouses, sweeping the last of the dinner debris off the table and going to join Aziraphale at the sink.
Aziraphale glances up as he comes into the room, taking the last of the plates from Crowley and handing him a towel for his trouble. “Here, you can dry as I wash.”
“Or,” Crowley suggests, even as he takes the first plate Aziraphale passes him, “you could just miracle it all clean and then -.”
“Wasteful,” Aziraphale chides. “Besides, a little hard work never hurt anybody.”
“That is historically untrue,” Crowley says.
Aziraphale’s mouth turns up at the corner as he passes Crowley some cutlery. “Maybe,” he agrees, “but it’s not getting you out of washing up so stop arguing, my dear.”
Crowley sighs for show, but really he doesn’t mind so much. It’s kind of nice. Soothing. Disgustingly domestic. He stacks the plates in the small spit of clean kitchen counter to his left and listens with only half an ear as Aziraphale babbles beside him, as quiet and soothing and yet ultimately ignorable as a brook.
Even if this is all they ever are, Crowley thinks, he could be perfectly content with it. He really, honestly could.
“You know,” Aziraphale says, apropos of nothing, “I’ve been thinking.”
“Oh?” Crowley says, barely paying attention, holding a hand out for the next dish that Aziraphale obligingly passes him.
“I’ve been thinking,” Aziraphale says again, “that it might save some time if you just moved in, wouldn’t it?”
The glass in Crowley’s hand shatters, sending sharp shards cascading to the floor.
“Oh, Crowley, really?” Aziraphale sighs, waving the mess away. He takes the crooked stem from Crowley’s frozen hand and tosses it in the bin by the sink. “Must you break everything?”
Crowley barely hears him. “I’m sorry,” he says. “What?”
“They’re never the same once you break them,” Aziraphale says. “You can feel it in them, you know?”
If God were much in the business of listening to him, Crowley would ask her why. “Not the glass, angel. The part about moving in.”
Aziraphale plucks the plug from the sink and the water whooshes away with a deep rattle. “Well, it just seems silly keeping your flat at this point, doesn’t it? I have plenty of space for the plants if that’s what you’re worried about. They might even brighten up the shop a bit.” The more he seems to consider the prospect, the more he seems to warm to it. “There’s space by the Pratchett books. I’m sure they’d be delighted with the company.”
Crowley stares, not following. “You want me? Here?”
Aziraphale finally glances at him and whatever he sees in Crowley’s face seems to alarm him. His smile falls to a frown. “Crowley?” he reaches up, setting his soapy, freezing hands to Crowley’s cheeks. “What is it?”
The precarious balance Crowley has strived to maintain over the past week feels dangerously close to a tipping point. Six thousand bloody years, and Aziraphale can still trip him up with barely a thought. “Angel -.”
“You don’t want to move in?” Aziraphale asks. He glances over his shoulder, considering his kitchen with a critical eye. “I suppose it’s a bit cramped. If you really want, we could live in your flat, I suppose.”
If Crowley were human he rather thinks he might be having a stroke. “That’s not -.”
“It’d be a waste to commute to the store though,” Aziraphale sighs, hands still chilly and wet on Crowley’s face. “I could see about moving it closer. Maybe I could even find a shop that I don’t have to coax high ceilings out of.”
“Aziraphale,” Crowley says, reaching up to shift the hands off his face. Their joined fingers hang limply between them. “Aziraphale, that’s not the problem.”
Aziraphale looks lost, his brow pinch. “Then what is?”
Hell is nothing compared to living in this moment. “Aziraphale,” Crowley says, and then, before he can talk himself out of it, “I’m in love with you.”
“Yes,” Aziraphale says. “Yes, I know.”
There has only been one other time is his life where Crowley has felt this horrified and it was when he’d been cast out of heaven and into the pit. Perhaps that had been even kinder, because at least Crowley had known what he’d done wrong.
“What?” he croaks.
Aziraphale squeezes Crowley’s hands. “Well, my dear, it’s been six thousand years; I may occasionally be a step slow but I’m not blind.”
Again, in case Aziraphale had not heard him the first time, Crowley says, “I don’t - what?”
“I don’t see why that should have any bearing on living together though,” he says, as unaffected as if Crowley had told him it might rain later that night. “You’ve been acting positively strange since we -.”
Crowley jams a hand over Aziraphale’s mouth. Aziraphale’s guileless eyes stare back at him, surprised and offended. The back of Crowley’s neck feels hot. “What do you mean you know?”
Aziraphale reaches up and pries Crowley’s hand away. “What do you mean, what do I mean? Crowley, I -.” A realization seems to hit. Crowley watches the aftershocks of it from up close, the way Aziraphale blinks, his soft mouth falling open. “Oh heavens, Crowley. Did you really think...?”
Crowley feels dangerously close to combusting, which is something he’d done once before but under much more amusing circumstances and certainly not by accident. “You’ve never said anything!” he says, stepping back and running his hands erratically through his hair. He spins on the spot, briefly contemplating just running from the conversation as a whole before realizing just how well Aziraphale would likely take that. “If you knew, you could have -.”
“Could have? I did!” Aziraphale says. “Crowley -.”
“Suggesting we sleep together is not - that could mean anything.” Crowley wants to grab Aziraphale by his shoulders and shake him until the startled, hurt expression falls from his face. “You didn’t have to give me that out of pity, angel.”
“Pity?” Aziraphale’s cheeks are a brilliant pink. “At what point during that - that encounter did it seem as if I was pitying you?”
“What else could it have been?” Crowley presses.
The quietly furious look on Aziraphale’s face melts away. “Six thousand years,” Aziraphale says again, “and did it never once occur to you that I felt the same?”
Crowley stares. He doesn’t so much as dare to breathe. In the past week and a half, Crowley has become intimately familiar with fear, but this is something else. No demon likes feeling exposed, Crowley less than most. His voice sticks in his throat. “I asked you to run away with me,” he says, “and you said no.”
“Oh,” Aziraphale says, soft. “Oh, my dear.” He steps closer, and this time when he cups Crowley’s face, Crowley lets him. “I think we have both been really very stupid.” His thumbs skate gently along Crowley’s cheeks. “I didn’t say no because I didn’t love you - I thought you knew that.”
“Yeah, well,” Crowley says. “I thought a lot of things.”
“But not this,” Aziraphale says.
“No,” Crowley admits. “Not this.”
“How could you not?” Aziraphale asks. “After everything we’ve been through, how could you not?”
The stupid thing is, now that Aziraphale’s asked him, Crowley doesn’t have an answer. “I don’t know. I just - I didn’t think.”
Aziraphale’s smile this time is excruciatingly soft. “Evidently not, my dear,” he says, and then kisses him.
For a moment Crowley isn’t sure what to do with himself; one night is hardly enough to become an expert in the art. Eventually, he settles his hands on Aziraphale’s waist, cautious, worried at any moment that this whole situation will be whisked away like smoke. Aziraphale slips a hand down to cover one of Crowley’s, pressing firmly, making sure he knows his touch is welcome. It does incredible things to Crowley’s flayed nerves.
When Aziraphale pulls back, Crowley still does not entirely believe he’s living in reality. “I’m sorry,” Aziraphale says earnestly. “I didn’t think I had to say anything; I thought, well, given everything, I thought it was obvious.”
“Maybe it was,” Crowley says. “I might have still missed it.”
Aziraphale’s smile is blinding. The hand he has on Crowley’s cheek has grown warmer, comforting and familiar. “All this time,” he says. “You were the one who said it; how long have we known each other?”
Crowley’s feeling too raw, stripped bare by too many words and far too much emotion. He doesn’t think he has it in him to talk about this for a second more. “Your flat is fine.”
“What?” Aziraphale asks, blinking owlishly at him.
“Moving in,” Crowley clarifies briskly. “Your flat would be better. I’m not all that attached to mine, and I know you’d complain about having to leave the store unsupervised.”
The confused look on Aziraphale’s face morphs into delight. “You don’t mind?”
“I never minded,” Crowley says. “You just - surprised me.”
Aziraphale steps back and Crowley clings for a moment before he reluctantly lets him. “We could do it tonight,” Aziraphale says, eyes glossy with excitement as he considers. “How much of your flat do you want to keep, truly? Other than your plants.”
“Angel,” he says. “Slow down. The flat will still be there in the morning. We can talk about it then.”
“Right,” Aziraphale says, nodding. His fingers are beating an excited rhythm atop the counter. “Of course, of course. I was just -.”
“It’s fine,” Crowley says, even though Aziraphale’s frenetic energy feels positively contagious. He steps in, crowding him against the bench and Aziraphale lets him. His hands fall to Crowley’s hips as easy as if they’ve done it a dozen times. “Tonight, can I stay here?”
“I wouldn’t have you anywhere else,” Aziraphale promises. He reaches up and tugs gently at Crowley’s shirt. “This past week, I thought you wanted space. If I’d known, I’d never have let you out the door.”
Despite himself, Crowley cannot help but smile. “Is that right? That was very kind of you.”
“Well,” Aziraphale says, “you were being very stupid.”
Crowley chooses to let that remark slide if only because it’s true.
Aziraphale says, before Crowley can think of a snarky reply, “Oh, we should bring your bed though.”
“My bed? I’m not particularly attached to it, yours is fine, angel.” Then, when a seed of doubt begins to flower, “Unless you don’t want me to -.”
Aziraphale pinches his side. “That wasn’t what I meant,” he says. “It’s just that perhaps I’m more attached to it than you are.” He smiles a smile he definitely learnt from Crowley. “Good memories and all.”
Crowley stares at him for a moment and then he huffs out a laugh, letting his head fall against Aziraphale’s. He’s so ridiculously, revoltingly happy he feels like he might burst. It’s disgusting. He never wants it to end.
“Whatever you want, angel,” he says, meaning it more than he can ever say. “Whatever you want.”