Chapter 1: One
His head jerks up from where it's been lolling to his right shoulder, his eyes blinking rapidly to re-adjust to the light. Once upon a time being a serpent was pretty cool, but white bulbs do absolutely no good for the sensitivity.
Aziraphale smiles lightly as he speaks, hands delicately popping another bottle of wine open. "Are you alright?"
"Mm, yeah," He repeats, shoving the bridge of his sunglasses over the bandage on his nose. He doesn’t really need one, but having it's better than the nose piece resting over fleshy bits as his body heals. "Perfect."
"Truly, I had thought that after 6,000 years you’d have learned that I know when you're… not telling the truth." Aziraphale pours himself a glass and hands the bottle over. Crowley glances up to the disapproving look shining down on him. Of all expressions the angel's ever worn, Crowley likes that one the least.
"What makes you think there’s somethin’ wrong with me?" He takes the 1947 Cheval Blanc and presses his lips to it.
"I really do wish you wouldn't do that, I gave you a glass."
"And we agreed I wouldn't use it back on the single malt, yeah?"
Aziraphale huffs, sitting himself in the bay window bench in the corner of his book shop. "You've.. got this, this face."
"Yeah, I'd hope I do," Crowley scoffs and Aziraphale (for a split second) wants to throw something at him. But he's an angel. So he doesn't.
"Stop that." He narrows his eyes across at the other. "I can usually, well- now, I know you don't exactly enjoy being called nice, but I can usually feel this happiness about you, and it's not there today. I dare say it hasn’t been there for a while now, my dear.”
Crowley scowls. It's a deep-set, nasty glare, no matter how half-assed it really is. "I'm a goddamned demon.”
"Not anymore you’re not, Crowley." Aziraphale’s not exactly sure how to follow it up as Crowley’s turned the bottle of wine upside down and poured it down his throat. "Alright..”
"Alright?" Crowley clarifies as soon as he's got his jaw set right again. Snakes have this thing, this ability to unhinge their jaw. Crowley is no exception (he rarely does it, usually only when he's trying to be intimidating. Which he's trying to do as told by his now wide yellow sclera's and blown, slitted pupils even if they’re hidden behind the shades.) "Yes, okay." They go on for hours like that, with Crowley much drunker than Aziraphale.
"Say, Crow-Crowley," Aziraphale stutters, gripping onto the back of the lounge Crowley’s laying on. He grunts and Aziraphale continues. "You ever just- ever just wanna, like you know, let your wings out?"
Crowley hesitates a moment, then nods. "Oh yessss." His forked tongue flits between his teeth and Aziraphale grins. He hasn't heard the hiss in a long time, a clear sign of a relaxed and fully off guard Crowley (or he just doesn't care for hiding it anymore but Aziraphale likes to believe it's the first one). “If only.”
“Well,” He smirks, shimmying out of his jacket and placing it up on a coat rack. “I do mean, we are alone. No pesky onlookers.” He clearly glares to the center of his shop distastefully with one (1) witchfinder sergeant in mind.
Crowley sits up straight suddenly, the sunglasses that had been resting on his chest now skittered across the floor and forgotten. His eyes are wide and scared, not that Aziraphale notes that, and watching him.
“Come now,” Aziraphale says and stretches, squaring his shoulders. Crowley stares up and his mouth goes dry. “Come on!”
“I-“ He shifts and shakes his head. “I can’t.”
“Then sober up! I know you have got to be dying to as much as I am.” Aziraphale plants his hands on his hips (honestly looking a little like an arrogant superhero) and smiles earnestly.
“Rather not be sober.”
“I can’t- my wings, Angel, you wouldn’t get it.”
“You’re not going to try and explain it?” Aziraphale sighs. Crowley slowly pulls his knees closer, which leaves a space on the sofa for the angel to consider taking.
Crowley blinks. Not the good, quick kind, but the kind that immerses you in what you want to forget. “No,” He quickly snaps. “No, and don’t you dare make me, Aziraphale.”
“Oh.” Aziraphale slowly folds. “Well, alright.”
Crowley reaches for his glasses.
“I’m going home.”
No angel hooked on at the end. Just Crowley getting up and out the door without so much as a goodbye. Aziraphale turns his head down and actively tries to ignore the little doorbell tinkling.
They don’t see each other for a month after that. The combined number of miracles between then drops to a mere two. Once when Aziraphale becomes particularly protective of a first edition Tamerlane and Other Poems he’d gotten in 1828, and the other when Crowley frustratedly slams a crack into his mister and miracles himself a new one. The demon spends a good three weeks of his hiatus sleeping and is only awakened to water and talk his plants. Aziraphale spends it as he always does when Crowley disappears, reading and eating and drinking tea. Only, I suppose this time includes much more worrying.
There’s one night in the mix of those 42 that’s particularly dark. Well, darker than demons enjoy. Crowley was sat at his blank desk (save for the ancient answering machine) with his feet tucked under the chair. He’d tried sleeping, he’d tried talking to the plants (but he didn’t want them to think he was soft). The nightmares kept him up. Which was rather ridiculous, in his opinion. He was an inciter of terrors, not a victim. Crowley let his eyes fall shut, intended it for only a brief moment, but drifted. He dreamt his wings were spread, wide and ominous over nothing. It’s like phantom limb syndrome. Even though it’s gone, you can still feel it.
It’s a Tuesday, about half an hour after Aziraphale flipped the sign on the door, when Crowley finally turns up.
“We’re closed!” Comes from deep in the shop, behind the closed shutters. Crowley knocks again. He’s sulking and slightly hunched and needs Aziraphale to open the door.
“We a- Oh dear, Crowley?” Aziraphale looks at him with wide eyes and a sorry downturn in his lip. Crowley doesn’t say anything, lets his body language speak for him, and is ushered in quickly. “Crowley, thank goodness you’re alright. I was beginning to consider dropping by to check in.”
“No,” Crowley utters. “Bad idea.”
“Bit of a fit I had the other day.” Aziraphale has that look and Crowley easily gives in. “Look, I’m allowed to be a mess, mm?”
Aziraphale shakes his head. “The one night I spent there, it was clean. No clutter, not much of anything to clutter up.” (There’s a little embarrassment laced to his tone, his bookshop is cluttered above anything else.)
“Shut up, Angel.” Crowley drags a hand up through his ragged hair and collapses down on the lounge. “‘ve got a raging headache.”
“I’m so very sorry for however it is I’ve offended you,” Aziraphale says softly, pressing a hand against the demon’s temple (just above the tattoo).
“Oh, shut up. I’m done bein’ mad at you,” Crowley murmurs and it’s so listless.
“Who.. is it you’re mad at, then?” The angel lets his fingers drift over the cuff of Crowley’s ear and into the short hair before pulling away. Crowley grunts way back in his throat. “Crowley, dear?”
“I’m mad at a lotta things, Angel,” He sighs. “But not you. Never you.”
“Well, what about 1327 when you avoided me for 40 years-“
“The 14th century was shit and you know it.” They both laugh at that. Even a weak one is welcomed.
“Would you like something to drink?” Aziraphale asks, tutting off to the narrow set of stairs up to the small apartment.
“Coffee’d be nice, I s’pose.” Crowley stands and follows.
“Coffee?” Aziraphale marvels, vaguely perplexed. “I have never heard you ask for coffee.”
“Not around you, maybe,” Crowley says, now sprawled along the daybed in the bookshop’s loft. “Three sugars and cream.”
“So,” Aziraphale starts, fixing up a coffee maker and his kettle. “May I ask what happened? Your.. fit?”
“I need to be plastered for that one to come out.” Crowley glances over his sunglasses at Aziraphale. “So don’t spike my cuppa.”
“Hilarious.” Aziraphale rolls his eyes. “You can take those off, you know.”
“Rather like having them on.” Crowley leans back, head between two pillows and not actually on any of them.
“I can’t tell what you’re thinking.”
“That’s half the point, I suppose.”
“I thought dolphins were your point,” Aziraphale smirks. Crowley turns, glaring at him without lowering the glasses. “Right, nevermind then.”
Crowley breathes softly and pushes the glasses to the tuft of hair atop is head, then presses his palms to his eyes. He kicks his legs up a little more and for once, enjoys the muddled scent of Aziraphale’s books (and the more recent smell of coffee).
“I- well.” Aziraphale takes a moment, his mouth working in an odd way. “I do care about you, you know.”
He peeks out from under one hand, slits widening.
“And whatever it is that’s happening to you, whatever it is that you’re going through, I don’t like it. I miss you smiling.” The angel speaks with pure, unadulterated fondness. “I miss you, Crowley.”
Crowley’s throat clicks and his jaw tenses. He covers his face again, notched teeth catching hold of his tongue. Aziraphale lets him shrink in on himself as he fixes a tea and coffee and places the mugs onto the short living space table.
He rubs his eyes vigorously, then stares up at Aziraphale.
“What’s your worst nightmare, Angel?”
“Oh. Ah, well.” Aziraphale purses his lips. “Armageddon?”
“No, for fs- no.” Crowley thumps his own forehead. “You’re an angel, course you don’t get nightmares.”
“You do?” Aziraphale asks in such a hushed tone.
“Alright, drop it.”
“Now, Aziraphale!” Crowley barks.
“No!” The angel stands firm. Crowley finally dares to meet his eyes, his own dilating immediately to take it all in, and finally, Aziraphale gets it. His eyes give away too much. It’s not that they’re inhuman or too sensitive (he tends to only use warm lighting [Crowley had frantically forbidden him from using candles] in the shop now), but they tell exactly how Crowley’s thinking. He softens. “Please, tell me. My dear, I want you to be- well, I’d like it if you were, to be honest with me.”
Crowley dips his head, the sunglasses falling from his hair to the healed bridge of his nose where he shoves them back into place.
“Your nightmares?” Aziraphale has a whole new look over his face and Crowley doesn’t exactly know how to describe it or what to make of it. He likes how safe it makes him feel though.
“Angel..” He croaks, the word broken into two.
“Heaven’s sake.” Crowley runs a hand along his brow. He closes his eyes, then wrenches them back open almost immediately.
“It’s a lot of fire, really,” He starts. “And a lot of.. (he wants to say frenzied terror) confusion. Not that hot, but it hurts, it’s all inside.”
Aziraphale gives a nod, then lowers himself cautiously onto the small ledge of bed left at Crowley’s right side. He doesn’t seem to make any motion to oppose so the angel relaxes. “Why fire?”
“You think I bloody know?” Crowley snaps then takes a cooling breath. He knows more than he’d likely ever admit. Crowley’s sniffling, thoroughly confusing Aziraphale. He didn’t know demons were capable of crying. Well, he thinks, Crowley’s not like the rest. No, indeed.
Aziraphale stays silent. He usually enjoys talking, worming his way through conversations with ease and fervor. But now is very different. Now he’s the one stable support beam in a collapsing building, one seeming to burn from the inside out. Aziraphale pets a hand up Crowley’s cheek.
“You said you missed me?” Crowley asks, rather pathetically and he knows it. Aziraphale can only nod. “I don't see how, I’ve never gone.”
“Crowley, dear, that’s not what I mean exactly.”
“I suppose not,” He mumbles, very sibilated. “I missed you, I missed you so much.”
“What do you mean?” Aziraphale asks. The hurt wafting from Crowley sinks in and he can’t help but feel it a little too.
“I thought I’d lost you, thought they’d set you ablaze and- I thought I’d lost you. And it’s such a stupid thing to say!”
“It’s not stupid at all,” Aziraphale whispers and pulls Crowley into his side, careful of boundaries. “It’s not at all. You’re a caring creature. I think it’s sweet, and dare I say very kind. It’ll take more than a wee bit of fire to destroy either of us.”
Crowley nods, clawing at the softness of Aziraphale. He writhes into a comfortable position (one more so for Crowley but Aziraphale endures) and gives a sharp inhale. “More than fire... I hate them other angels, Gabriel and the whole lot.”
Aziraphale can’t help but laugh. “Oh? You never did tell me what they all said, darling.”
“That’s a whole other nightmare. Too many of those for now..” Crowley says. He pulls the shades from his face and folds them, sliding them into a pocket before nuzzling up into Aziraphale’s collar. The angel’s breathing stalls for a moment before picking up into a steady rhythm. There’s a rosy flush across his cheek, not that Crowley can see.
“Yes, my dear,” He hums. “Let your mind rest.”
“I can’t sleep.”
“‘Mm, yes.” Aziraphale pushes his brows together. “Well now, how about you drink your coffee? We can find something to busy our time with.”
Crowley stretches out a hand, weakly grabbing across Aziraphale for the mug. He requires some assistance but eventually settles back in with the mug close to his neck. Crowley adores warmth, the way it feels on his skin, and is rather enamored by the feeling oozing from not only his cup but Aziraphale as well. He would never say so, but he feels more at home like this than he had in Heaven or Hell. Aziraphale might take some encouragement, but could eventually readily admit he felt that two fold.
“I’m rather curious,” He says. “What was it about the wings that set you off?”
“Aziraphale,” Crowley huffs. “You’re too much, you know.”
“Oh, but I’d like to know so I don’t do it again-“
“You’ve thoroughly wrecked me for the night, and I’m thoroughly embarrassed enough, do you have to yank on that thread?” Crowley’s trying to push through with a level of sureness, but the scab’s already been picked and he can feel everything bleeding out. He spasms, free hand whipping back to scratch between his shoulder blades. His coffee sloshes, not quite out of the mug, and Aziraphale stares. To say he’s startled is an understatement.
“Crowley?” Aziraphale asks in a whisper. It’s disturbing to see, this beautiful demon clawing at his back with eyes screwed shut but most definitely as yellow as they’d ever been. “Crowley, dear, stop that.”
He quickly places both their cups back on the table, then takes a tight hold of Crowley’s hands. They’re burning with friction heat and he won’t stop struggling. He won’t stop babbling about the wings either.
The demon’s fingers rake up his jacket (and shirt) and the skin underneath is shown. Crowley flinches at that, the cold air knocking him loose. Aziraphale is staring again. Staring at the opalescent marks snaking further up, how they shoot tendrils around his ribcage and spine in a way that suggest the bones had been the focal point of whatever damage was done.
“Crowley.. what’s happened to you..?” Aziraphale reaches to feel. He doesn’t get so far, struck by exactly how awful Crowley must be feeling, and retreats. Aziraphale doesn’t get a response either, and moves to coercing him through more acceptable touches. He strokes Crowley’s hair and gratefully allows him to collapse against his shoulder. Crowley’s not breathing at all anymore, hand’s still rather twitchy. “I’m sorry I brought this up.”
“No.” Crowley’s voice is no more than a whimper. “No, no, no, my cock up.”
“No, my dear, you’re perfectly alright, no mess to apologize for.” Crowley tucks his head low. Aziraphale continues. “May I see?”
Crowley glances up in a jerky movement, eyes just as stressed and iris ravaged as the angel’d thought. He shoves the shirt back into place. “No.”
“Alright.” Aziraphale holds onto him. “I didn’t think that demon’s could have scars?”
“When other demon’s do it,” Crowley finally takes a shuddering breath and shrugs. “Sure.”
“What do you mean?”
“I don’t even remember what I did.. or maybe didn’t do. Lucifer used to be a friend.. until I.. did just the wrong things and he- fuck.” He shakes his head violently. “They aren’t supposed to. They took my wings, Aziraphale. They took them.”
Aziraphale stiffens, experiencing a stabbing pain through his own wings. He’d never heard of anyone taking another’s wings forcefully, he wouldn’t have expected even demons to be that horrific. Nor was Crowley the kind that deserved that sort of punishment. He may not be the run of the mill “slaughter here, damn there” kinda guy, but he caused enough chaos to make a living. Aziraphale can’t stand the look of utter shame infesting Crowley’s face any longer.
“I- my g- oh-“ He stammers.
“I don’t want your pity,” Crowley says. “I deserved it somehow, I know. Just like the whole fuss of falling.”
“But you didn’t!” Aziraphale bursts, jostling them both on the bed. Crowley immediately twists in on himself. “No one could ever deserve- did they remove the whole bone?”
“Kinda a hack job.”
“I am-! How could they? How dare they!” Aziraphale is seething and pacing the loft now, the maddest he’s truly ever been. “I’m going to- oh dear God (the saying carries very little weight now), if I ever find myself in their presence again!”
“Crowley, I don’t even.. I can’t begin to.. Oh, Crowley, dear.”
“I don’t like this,” Crowley mutters and stretches his legs out. His facade is back and all trace of tears removed in a feeble attempt to put this whole thing behind them. “Don’t like how you’re all uppity about my own issues, don’t like being vulner’ble, so cut it.”
“Don’t like me being uppity? Crowley, I was uppity every time you came along to tempt me. I am absolutely floored and-and livid! You don’t- they- damn it, Crowley.” Aziraphale tugs a hand in through his hair, a trait he’d much tried to suppress.
“You shouldn’t worry ‘bout it, Angel,” Crowley says as he stands on weak knees. He staggers a little, the excitement of his episode still running deep in his muscles. “‘M fine. Getting along.”
“Oh, don’t go,” Aziraphale pleads, directly in front of Crowley now and pressing a palm to his forearm. “No, I couldn’t bear it again, not now.”
“I have things to get on with-“
“Neither of us do, Crowley.”
Crowley opens his mouth. Then shuts it again because he’s right. Neither of them have anything to do, no obligations (none but to each other at this point).
“Stay?” Aziraphale offers, eyes wide and more than a little damaged. “You’re coffee’s still warm.”
Crowley glances to the newly steaming cup beside the angel’s cold tea. He cracks a smile (a sad one that’s stuck together with wet glue), then moves attention back to Aziraphale.
“Are you tempting me?”
“Why, yes, I believe I am.”
“Alright,” Crowley nods once and lowers himself back down. He sticks two fingers to his temple and huffs.
“Are you sure you can’t sleep? I know how it does you good,” Aziraphale rubs along Crowley’s shoulder, the demon closing his eyes to hide his face. Aziraphale combs his other hand up against the back of Crowley’s head and pulls him forward gently so he’s resting against Aziraphale’s middle.
“Will I be alone?”
“I can go down to the shop if you’d like me to-“
“Bloody- no, Aziraphale, I want the absolute opposite of that,” Crowley groans, his entire body heating up to touch.
“You’d like me to stay, then?” He’s mildly bewildered and Crowley’s even warmer.
“I’m gonna murder myself- a hard, sodding yes, you idiot.”
“Oh,” Aziraphale says blankly. “Oh, well, alright then, yes, of course.”
Crowley lets out a frustrated grunt and rolls to his side with the mug precariously against his chest. Aziraphale returns to sitting at Crowley’s side, patting his back.
“Crowley, darling.” He’s still very hot. “Come here.”
Crowley huffs but turns over on his other side. He’s got his eyes firmly closed and Aziraphale wonders what exactly he’s got to hide now. The arm he’d stretched out is now pressed underneath Crowley (Aziraphale can vaguely feel boney nubs).
“Stop that, if you’d wanted me- I can get-“ Crowley struggles for a moment with the word. “Closer, on my own very well.” He adjusts himself into something reminiscent of just ten minutes prior. Aziraphale smiles. Crowley takes a drink.
“I care about you very deeply.”
And finally, the bright yellow eyes find their way home.
“I’m going to sleep.” Crowley finishes off the coffee and the mug disappears (to the shelf it belongs). He lays his head down. Aziraphale grins because, for Crowley, that’s about as close he’ll ever get to saying I love you too.
Chapter 2: Two
He lets the feather flutter to the ground, then turns to exit with his head held high. It’s not every day you fool the God of Hell.
Hello! I'm sorry it's taken me so long to update this but here it is! I feel it's a lovely little addition to the 1st part. I hope you enjoy!
Aziraphale’s been reading a lot lately. More so than usual, occasionally dipping into Heaven to check records. Of course, he hasn’t told Crowley about that last part and has no intention to lest he has another episode (Aziraphale’s pretty sure they’re anxiety attacks) over it. What he doesn’t know can’t hurt him. In this case, it may actually help him. At least Aziraphale had steered clear of the archangels and snitches, most of the others had heard of the hellfire incident and stayed away themselves.
“I think this one’s quite lovely,” He says, thumbing the only succulent Crowley seems to own.
“I think it’s pointless,” Crowley shrugs from the opposite corner among some peace lilies. Only he notices the bristling of the plant, it’s inclination to Aziraphale’s kindness. He sends a sneer it’s way. “It doesn’t listen.”
“Maybe you should be kinder to it, dear.”
Crowley mocks him, aiming the mister out in the angel’s direction. “Which one of us knows horticulture, hmm?”
“Of course, master gardener Crowley,” Aziraphale smiles. Crowley tries to shake the intonation but succumbs to a light flush of pride, shoving himself back to watering. “How about a spot of lunch?"
“I’ve got to finish these up.” He waves around the room.
“Course, Angel,” Crowley nods. Aziraphale traipses back towards him and feels over one of the demon’s sharp shoulders. Crowley’s top lip twitches. “Yes?”
“You’re doing lovely, dear.” Crowley stiffens and stares at Aziraphale for a moment longer than usual. He clearly means more than the plants, but Crowley doesn’t feel like diving into it now so he gives another small nod and rubs his nose.
“Right.” He hesitates, then pushes his glasses to atop his head. “The Ritz?”
Aziraphale makes a harsh yet fluid movement in tipping his head to the side. “As if anywhere else?”
“Never,” Crowley simpers with soft eyes and a quirk to his hip. Aziraphale clears his throat.
“I have a- book thing- trade- I’m buying a book!” He bursts suddenly, eyes swinging away from Crowley. He doesn’t mind though.
“Sure. There by one?” Crowley isn’t so much as phased by the angel’s antics.
Aziraphale agrees and promptly finds himself sat in Jasmine Cottage, a cup of tea in front of him. Crowley, on the other hand, finished with the watering, is sprawled along one of the chairs Aziraphale had added to the green room.
“Well, I dare ask, hm, how do I phrase it now?” Aziraphale chuckles lightly. Anathema seems patient enough to let him put together an actual sentence. “Is it possible to.. well, bring back something that’s been.. forcibly removed ? Something.. ethereal?”
“I don’t follow.”
“Magically?” Aziraphale winces.
“Magic? I’m a witch, occult, I don’t know anything about your problems. I’m not religious.”
“Well, I suppose it might count as occult!” Anathema takes a deep breath, waiting for him to continue. “He’s- It’s somewhat occult!”
“If I knew what you were talking about this would make so much more sense.” She says.
“Do you know any spells?” Aziraphale’s desperately grasping at straws now. Not that he’s in any way opposed to Plan B, but that one comes with a much less certain result.
“Spells.” Anathema stares blankly.
She’s not much help.
Aziraphale’s tense at lunch, something that Crowley notices almost immediately and says nothing about. He does, however, shift his weight and tuck his foot in between the angel’s under the table. It’s a habit he’d only taken up recently when he’d discovered how perfectly hilarious Aziraphale always is after. All blushing and grinning and reaching to touch Crowley’s hand for absolutely no reason. Lovely things, he thinks.
On cue, Aziraphale smiles brightly and looks up from rambling about the details on his supposed book deal gone wrong.
“Sounds a right mess, Angel,” Crowley says over his glass.
“Oh goodness, it was,” He breathes the near lie, smile turning pinched. Crowley knows the sourness. “And you? How was the rest of your morning?”
“It was a morning.” Aziraphale is unamused. “Talked to the plants, nothin’ else,” Crowley shrugs.
“For pity's sake- what is this, twenty questions, Aziraphale?” He huffs, adjusting as the waitress serves them. They both thank her politely, Aziraphale sitting with an expectant expression when she passes. “Sometimes I wish I’d implode. Or explode, dunno the difference, really.”
Aziraphale considers pointing out the prefixes but continues to push instead, that stupid smirk nearly blinding Crowley even behind his shades. “Oh, come now, my dear, what’s so sensitive you can’t tell me?”
“Been thinking of wearing contacts,” Crowley says bluntly. “Y’know, those little things- the-the lenses they put in their bloody eyes- make ‘em in-” he scrunches back and makes a face. “-hundreds of colors. Maybe I’ll get some- brown? The nasty little succulent liked that idea.”
Aziraphale is too blindsided to notice Crowley’s reciprocal smirk. “B-Brown eyes?!” He doesn’t mean to be so loud.
“Got a problem with that?”
“Well, I-I suppose not..” Aziraphale treads delicately. “I just- I- hm. I love your eyes, your own.”
Crowley makes a sort of choking noise. “They’re ridiculous if you think about it. All yellow and not right, really. You know what I mean.”
“Crowley, they’re absolutely charming.” Aziraphale completely rips the seam from the fun Crowley was having with all of his God forbid emotions. He shakes his head and looks anywhere but the angel, foot shifting. “There’s nothing like them- you.”
“Yes, I did know that,” he grunts, glasses as far up the bride of his nose as possible.
“Will you really be getting contact lenses?”
“Great- no, I suppose not,” Crowley briefly sits up straight before his posture returns to normal. “Hate to have you hating me.”
“Oh, I could never, my dear,” Aziraphale says, so sincerely, and stretches his own feet to cradle Crowley’s left one again. It’s quite comfortable and as something the demon’d initiated, it must be more than just frivolous touching.
“Uh, yeah.” Crowley takes a gulp of wine. “Right, well.”
They’re quiet for a bit and it’s as easy as it always had been. Aziraphale pays and Crowley tips, walking with the angel back to the bookstore. He’s been spending much more time there between the hours of 8 pm and 7 am. Whether that implies he sleeps better among Aziraphale's homeliness or not is up for debate.
“Crowley, dear,” Aziraphale says from the back of the shop. He’s been trying to find where Sturlason’s Kongesegaer fits into his Mythology collection and Crowley had slipped away to the lounge 5 minutes into the search. “Crowley!”
“What?” He huffs, giving Aziraphale a sideways glance. The gaze goes wide. “What on earth are you doing, Angel?”
“Tidying up, come hold these.” Aziraphale holds out a handful of candles and Crowley darts up to take them. He’s half inclined to snap them all in half.
“Why have you still got these?” What he really means is you promised you’d never light a goddamned candle ever again but he’s not up for yelling at Aziraphale.
“Lost track of them after..” Aziraphale trails off. He clears his throat and waves his hand. “Discorporating.. and the whole place being back together.”
Crowley turns the candles over in his hand, one of them short and scorched black along one side.
“‘M gonna trash ‘em.”
“Trash them- Crowley, they’re perfectly fine candles!”
“Perfectly capable of setting the place ablaze again too,” Crowley snaps back and Aziraphale takes in his expression.
“I told you I’d never light them in here again,” He says, holding tightly onto the bundle of books under one arm. Aziraphale sighs. “Throw them out if you must.”
The candles are gone in a snap.
“You’re really going to scare me to death one of these days,” Crowley mutters. He rubs his forehead before finally removing the glasses. “You know that?”
“That would be a shame,” Aziraphale smiles. The bright yellow eyes are large and welcoming, like a lighthouse beckoning a homesick sailor back to land, or the sun bearing down on a beachgoer. He takes a moment to breathe in the starkness of Crowley. The eyes and hair and black clothes against rather tanned skin.
“Asked you a question,” Crowley smirks.
“I’m sorry, I didn’t hear you. Repeat it, would you, my dear?”
“Just thinkin, maybe my home has changed?” His voice dips into a low skepticism, unsure of how the angel will take his suggestion.
“What happened to your flat?” Aziraphale asks quickly. He’s not ignorant, he knows exactly the implications of Crowley’s words but isn’t sure Crowley himself understands.
“Nothing, nothing... But I was thinking, should I sell it? Move out?” He sucks on the inside of his lower lip.
“Where would you go?”
“Amimovingtoofastagain?” Crowley lets out in one large breath. Aziraphale catches him in the panic, reaching out to touch his arm and squeeze gently.
“No, my dear,” He smiles. “Not at all.”
“Just thought maybe since I spend all night here anyways and most of the days now there’s not much to be done, I figured- I- well, I guess I dunno exactly what I figured, just that I’d bring it up and-” Aziraphale cuts him off with two fingers to the demon’s sporadically moving mouth.
“It’s perfectly alright, Crowley,” Aziraphale whispers. “I’ll clear the attic, is that good enough for your plants?”
The rest of the night is quiet and full of gentle words, but the next afternoon leaves the book shop empty with Crowley gone to gather his ficus trees and spider plants and the little damn aloe plant, and Aziraphale finally understanding how the escalator Down works.
“Uhm, hello there,” Aziraphale says cautiously as he enters the office and gives a little wave. The last time he’d spoken to them, they weren’t exactly pleasant.
“What are youu doing here?”
“Well, I need to speak with someone.”
“Your boyfriend’zz not here,” Beelzebub snarks. Aziraphale distantly wonders what they’d do if Crowley were there, especially after the whole thing with the holy water.
“No, yes, I know that.” He refrains from rolling his eyes.
“Then what do you want?”
“I’d like to speak with the Dark Lord.”
“Excuzze me?” They ask. Aziraphale adjusts his vest and gives them a nod.
“No, no one talks to him. Not even self-important angelzz like you.”
“Yes, well, you see,” Aziraphale smiles lightly. “I’m the self-important angel that assisted in forcing him back down, I dare say I do have some valid importance.”
Beelzebub stares at him. They don’t look so angry anymore, just quite annoyed. “It’s you who’s got the death wish, then.”
“Rather,” Aziraphale grins as he follows Beelzebub off down a hall, demon’s crowding the edges and watching on in distaste. He wishes he knew more of Crowley's brief stay in heaven and the Archangels’ horror. “You heard about the hellfire incident, did you not?”
“You’re a stupid angel.” What is it with demons calling him stupid? “Natives may not be affected but he can still damn you all he pleasezz.”
Aziraphale remains quiet. Upsetting the Lord of Hell isn’t something he’s too keen upon.
“He’zz not going to like this,” they say at the end of a large, tall hallway.
“If I didn’t know that I don’t think I’d be so confident.” Beelzebub gives him a funny glance, then knocks on the huge double doors. They creak open and Beelzebub leaves Aziraphale in the doorway.
“I hope he rips your wingzz off.”
Aziraphale gapes at them as they disappear back the way they’d led him. Perhaps wing removal is just another punishment down here. Perhaps it’s normal, and there are very few demons who keep their wings. Perhaps, Aziraphale thinks, it’s not fair.
“Hello?” He calls into the dark. It’s reminiscent of the throne rooms he often found himself in during the 1700s, only much more.. on fire. There’s a deep rumble and suddenly, there He is, sitting up slowly in the large seat.
“What purpose do you have here, Angel ?” The way He says the title is far from any care that Crowley’s intonation carries. “I could end you.”
“Yes, but you won’t.”
He looks up at that and chuckles. “Oh, I won’t? Elaborate.”
“I am here for something you stole and so help me I will get it back.” Aziraphale squares his shoulders, ignoring the bellowing laughter coming from Satan himself.
“You will?” He grins. “And what exactly have I stolen?”
“The demon Crowley’s wings,” Aziraphale says. He (with a capital H) freezes and leans down to peer at Aziraphale, snarling.
“Crowley lost them for a reason .”
“Enlighten me then, please, because I cannot fathom any and he seems to have no recollection of a damn thing besides pain,” Aziraphale snaps, his patience already wearing thin.
“You are the reason, Principality.” He hisses. “Your influence on him. He became susceptible to compassion, something that required immediate reversal. I was not going to allow My Crowley to be stolen.”
“ Your Crowley ?!” Aziraphale shouts. “He is not yours!”
“He’s not yours,” He sneers right back. “Has he ever told you he loves you, cares for you? Stupid angels, thinking you can change everyone. Demons don’t love, they don’t care. I stole Crowley’s freedom. I burned it below him for all of Hell to watch. I made an example of my Favorite because you went and fucked him up! If anyone should have their limbs removed it’s you.”
Aziraphale takes a deep breath, then moves in closer to the throne. “You call him your favorite.. and yet you torture- humiliate him! You remove a piece of his being because you do not trust a demon around an angel?! He’s already been through damnation for you, he fell from Grace with you because he trusted you and you treat him with such monstrosity!!” Aziraphale’s red in the face from screaming, his blood boiling. The feeling of Crowley’s waxy scars swims through his memory, ghosts of it playing along his fingertips. He clenches his fists and swallows the rest of his poisonous words in favor of a deal. “What does an angel’s feather mean to you?”
It’s instantaneous, Him lighting up.
“A way in.”
“I don’t think I side much with anyone anymore,” Aziraphale says, his white wings making a sort of whooshing noise as they open up. He folds one forward before plucking a brilliant primary from among the feathers. He holds it up and out. “Return Crowley’s wings and it’s yours.”
“What position are you in to be bargaining?”
“What position are you in to be refusing?” Aziraphale speaks through his teeth. “You just lost the one opportunity of war.”
“You’re offering the fall of Heaven for My Crowley’s wings?” He asks.
“Let’s straighten this out,” Aziraphale seethes. “Crowley is not yours, he did not choose to spend 6000 years with you. He’s not mine. I am merely offering you war on the condition you give him what is rightfully his.”
Satan’s quiet, staring down at Aziraphale. He makes a loud grunt and snaps the thumb and second finger of his right hand. “It’s done. Now give me the feather.”
“With pleasure,” Aziraphale grins. He lets the feather flutter to the ground, then turns to exit with his head held high. It’s not every day you fool the God of Hell, who is clearly unfamiliar with the ways to form a Heaven Bound gateway. One feather is not six, no matter how you count.
In his flat, Crowley gasps. It’s quiet and unfiltered so it’s a little raw, but it leaves his mouth all the same and he staggers to grasp the wall. His ribs ripple out of place, which is excruciating but the stretching of his shoulder blades is much worse. There’s creaking and squelching and Crowley screams, his body slipping to the floor. He convulses with his arms drawn to his chest as his spine bows outward. Out of line and completely inhuman. Indemon too.
There’s one last crack. Crowley sits back on his heels when he can finally straighten himself up, his head reeling. A minute or two passes in silence, then a gurgle and then Crowley’s throwing up, one firm hand carefully placed barely keeping his head from smacking the floor.
His mobile buzzes in his pocket. Then, once that’s done, his answering machine lights up with that annoying ring and red light.
“Crowley! Oh, Crowley, I know you must be home! I’ve got something to tell you so I’m going to pop-”
On his knees like that, Crowley can’t make any move to answer either phone quickly. He wipes his mouth and wishes he’d paid better attention to Aziraphale’s message. It would’ve been nice to hear more of his voice. The soft and sweet and dripping with love tone that’s embroidered into the angel’s wellbeing. He rises slowly. Immediately, Crowley feels an old (yet very new) weight to the way he holds himself. He’s somehow heavier. And slouchier. Crowley has never been one to stand, or walk for that matter, properly, but that addition makes him a bumbling mess as he finds something to hang onto.
Aziraphale knocks. Of course, he does, he always does, and Crowley is so damn grateful for that because he’s beginning to think someone in corporate found a remote way to discorporate.
“Angel,” Crowley sighs, leaning against the frame of the door he’d just pried open.
“Are you alright?” Aziraphale asks. “You’re pale.”
“No, I’m fine,” He says, knowing perfectly well he’s not fine. “Just a sick stomach.”
“Should I make you some tea?”
“No, no, don’t bother,” Crowley shakes his head, a miracle making the puddle of bile disappear before Aziraphale can catch sight or smell of it. A wave of dizziness hits him and his nails dig into the ornate door handle. He cracks his neck.
“Are you…” Aziraphale raises a brow as Crowley lets him in. “Perfectly sure?”
Crowley gives a nod. “Tired.” Then his nose gets to working and he pivots to stare the angel down. “Why d’you smell like that?”
“What do you mean?” Aziraphale takes a good sniff. “I can’t sme-”
“You smell like…” He spits out the word like venom. “ Hell .”
“Oh, well, that ,” Aziraphale laughs awkwardly. “That’s precisely why I popped over.”
“What?” Crowley’s voice is high and frightened. “Hell?”
“Yes!” Aziraphale’s voice is an incredible contrast, all light and cheery. “I went down and-”
“You went to Hell?” Crowley gasps out and Aziraphale pauses to see the wreck he’s making.
“Well, for a good reason. It was for you.” He edges closer to Crowley, who feels a sudden tug down his backbone that causes him to stumble into the now closed door.
“Me?” He snarls, propped up against the black wood. “ Me ? I want you nowhere near that place!”
“No, just listen now, would you?”
“I-I can’t even understand. What compelled you to just... meander on down there and what- have a lovely chat with Hastur, did you? Tea with Beelzebub?!”
“Well, I- Crowley, darling, promise me you’ll try to understand?” Aziraphale stretches out a hand this time. He knows Crowley knows it’s there and prays he’ll take it. “Please? For me?” There it is. The hail mary Aziraphale hates to use but is not opposed to when there’s no other way to subdue the demon.
“Fine, whatever,” Crowley waves.
“I went to speak with Satan himself.”
“You fucking what?” Crowley’s voice is eerily even and unwavering, very different from the squawking he had been doing.
“Yes, but let me explain. For your nightmares- your..” He trails off. “I couldn’t find the proper records in Heaven, rather the right information on how to go about doing it so I did the best I could with what I did know- Crowley- Crowley! Are you alright?”
“You went to Heaven?” Crowley’s knees buckle and he finds himself slouched on his knees in the middle of his own foyer, head hung low, his voice is barely a whisper.
“I- I hadn’t meant to tell you that,” Aziraphale says earnestly, standing in front of the fallen demon. He places his hands on either side of Crowley’s head before slowly tilting his face up, thankful for the fact the glasses were already missing, forgotten somewhere behind a plant when Crowley had collapsed before. “Look at me, my dear.
Crowley keeps his face down, eyes screwed up tight. “You- you- Aziraphale..” He can’t seem to find the right words and babbles on a bit more before sagging even further down.
“Let me explain,” Aziraphale mutters. He’s gentle, carding his fingers through the auburn mess of Crowley’s hair. It’s damp, sweaty, and almost matted toward the back. “I only went to see if they had any writing for me to figure what to do. They didn’t, and, my dear boy, they didn’t spot me. As for Hell, I was much more successful.”
“Nothing there is successful ,” Crowley practically wheezes.
“I struck a deal. Crowley, darling, your wings- He took them because you were with me, Crowley.” Aziraphale eyes are glassy and he’s beginning to understand why Crowley seems to fight so hard to keep his emotions on the inside because damn do they hurt once they reach your ribcage. “It’s my fault.”
“Fault,” Crowley scoffs. He’s trying so desperately to return to a cool tone, to reassure Aziraphale the best he can but it just isn’t happening. “You don’t have faults."
“Will you stop with that ‘angel’s are perfect’ thing! I hate it!” Aziraphale’s hands go cold and Crowley shivers. It’s jarring and he hisses in discomfort, then wraps one of his palms around Aziraphale’s wrists. The fingers in his hair begin to warm up again.
Crowley sits still. “It’s not your fault.”
“It-“ Aziraphale stops. This is one (possibly the only) argument he surely won’t win. He helps Crowley back to his feet. “Mm. Well, no matter, I have delightful news for you.”
“Go on,” Crowley grunts, staggering, a vague sensation of nausea creeping up on him.
“I coerced Him into returning your wings!”
Crowley looks at Aziraphale, dumbfounded, because of course he’s the only being ever to say that he was able to coerce Satan himself to do something that wasn’t for his benefit. Crowley’s jaw hangs open, hinged wide and gaping and Aziraphale thinks for a moment that Crowley broke himself.
“You whot?” He shouts when things start moving again.
“Your wings!” Aziraphale shouts back, giddy.
“My wings?!” In one swift movement, Crowley’s shirt and vest and jacket are dropped to the floor and he turns in tight circles as to try and see his back. Sure enough, the knobby bones have receded under the pasty scarring and all at once he understands the nausea and the new yet oddly old weight in his shoulders. “You’re joking.”
“Not at all, my love!” Aziraphale grins and takes Crowley’s hands. “Let’s see them, shall we?”
The dark wings make a soft noise as the extend to their full wingspan. The feeling is so much for Crowley, the joy and relief, that he lets out a groan. The muscles in his back and around the bones adjust and welcome the burn from extending them so far so quickly. Crowley adores it all, every sensation through his deprived nerve endings, he can feel the draft. He looks over to Aziraphale who looks on with the largest smile any angel ever bore.
“Look at you,” Aziraphale says. “Magnificent.”
“Angel…” Crowley reaches out to touch, caress the side of Aziraphale’s face. “Why would you- How could I ever make this up to you?”
“There’s nothing I want more than your happiness.” Aziraphale tilts his head, pressing further against Crowley’s calloused palm.
“But I ought to- What can I- Aziraphale… I don’t know what to do- to say .” Crowley sighs. “ Thank you .”
Aziraphale flushes and looks away for a moment. It really is only a moment because when they’re there, he cannot deny himself from Crowley’s eyes. “You’re welcome, love.”
One of Aziraphale’s hands finds its way to Crowley’s chest, the other latching around a harsh hip bone. Crowley adjusts his grip on Aziraphale’s face in favor of cupping his chin with his left-hand hooking into the pocket of the angel’s waistcoat. Aziraphale moves first, causing Crowley’s elbow to hit his own chest, but that discomfort is quickly forgotten in the sweet embrace their lips find. They kiss, and they kiss, and they kiss.
“Shall we,” Aziraphale asks when he finally plucks up enough self-control to retreat. It’s rather difficult to restrain yourself around a beautiful demon with his wings out, he would know. “Go home?”
“Home,” Crowley nods and takes the angel’s hand.