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i can't say the words, so i wrote you into my verse

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i. chest; greece, 615.

Aziraphale has a particular fondness for the Greeks - most especially for their liberal use of ingredients like honey and olive oil. In a little room he’d rented for the night right in the heart of Athens, he sighs happily to himself as he gazes down at the simple, delicious spread on the table before him. Dolmadakia stuffed with ground lamb and rice, vegetable soup seasoned with vinegar and herbs, and feta wrapped in phyllo pastry, drizzled with honey.

 

Breathing in deeply the rich smells of his meal, he whispers a prayer of thanks and reaches eagerly for his plate. A spoonful of grape skin, lamb, and rice halfway to his mouth, he startles at a succession of rapid knocks at the door. With no one around to see, he allows himself a moment to visibly deflate as he slowly lowers the spoon back to his plate.

 

“Bugger,” he mutters, casting a mournful glance at the steam still rising from his food. He flinches at the sound of a palm slapping impatiently against his door and musters his patience. “One moment, please!”

 

A low, familiar voice replies dryly from the corridor. “Take your time, angel.”

 

Aziraphale stands so quickly his chair scrapes across the floor. “Crowley?”

 

He hasn’t seen Crowley since they shared oysters in Rome nearly a century ago and Aziraphale can’t deny the idea of seeing him again is more than a little pleasing. He pauses briefly before he opens the door, struggling to rein in the delighted smile on his face. There aren’t exactly guidelines for the sort of relationship he has with Crowley but Aziraphale is fairly certain he shouldn’t be so happy to see his natural enemy.

 

Honestly, he chides himself. Imagine if Gabriel saw you.

 

Even with that sobering thought in mind, he can barely keep his facial expression in check as he swings open the door. Crowley stands draped against the doorframe like he’s forgotten he has bones to hold him up. Suppressing an unexpected wave of fondness, Aziraphale forces a scowl.

 

“What are you doing-” He pauses, taking in the droop of Crowley’s short hair, the sweat beading on his brow, the way he hasn’t bothered to adjust the glasses slipping down the bridge of his nose. Just as he’s about to reprimand him for showing up already drunk, Aziraphale spots the bright red stain darkening the shoulder of his linen tunic. He breathes out, horrified. “Crowley, you’re bleeding.”

 

Wearily, Crowley arches an eyebrow. “You don’t say.”

 

Aziraphale huffs. “Get in here.”

 

Crowley puts up only a token protest as Aziraphale ushers him inside and shuts the door, sinking into the vacated seat at the table and propping his injured arm up beside the abandoned plate. As Aziraphale hovers anxiously behind him, Crowley leans in and sniffs curiously. “What, no apple?”

 

Watching blood seep into the tablecloth, Aziraphale stifles a noise of concern behind pursed lips. “They’re out of season.” He snaps his fingers and a bundle of medical supplies appears on the table. “Let me see, please.”

 

Crowley sighs, as though terribly inconvenienced, and shrugs out of his tunic. “S’just a scratch.”

 

If that were true, he wouldn’t have shown up out of the blue, weakened and in pain, to knock relentlessly on Aziraphale’s door. Rebuttal on the tip of his tongue, Aziraphale pauses as his eyes skitter from the supplies spread out on the table to Crowley’s exposed chest. To his shame, the first thing he notices is not the deep gash cutting a bold line across Crowley’s shoulder and bicep but rather the black ink scrawled down his left pectoral.

 

Aziraphale blinks as it slowly dawns on him exactly what he’s looking at. Crowley has a tattoo. Well, another one anyway. Unlike the small serpent curled just beneath his temple, this one takes up far more space. It’s a sword, strikingly similar to the one Aziraphale used to carry before he gave it away all those years ago. Instead of flames enveloping the blade, however, a snake curls sinuously around the weapon like a lover. A slender, forked tongue brushes the hilt of the sword.

 

All of this takes mere seconds of study but Aziraphale flicks his gaze away guiltily anyway. Swallowing, he redirects his attention to the gash on Crowley’s shoulder and hopes the demon hadn’t noticed his stare. Luckily for him, Crowley is far too preoccupied with commandeering the wine Aziraphale had left out.

 

Leaning close to study the ragged cut seeping blood onto the tablecloth, Aziraphale tuts disapprovingly. “What happened?”

 

Crowley shrugs. “Wrong place, wrong time. Bloody Thessalonica.” He grimaces, watching Aziraphale reach for the antiseptic. “Can’t you just-” He waggles his fingers, clearly attempting to convey an angelic miracle.

 

“Not before I clean it.” Aziraphale frowns, prodding at the wound and ignoring Crowley’s answering hiss. “If it’s already infected, closing the cut won’t do you any favors.” Without looking up, he pushes the wine toward Crowley. “Drink up.”

 

As Crowley drinks deeply from the bottle, Aziraphale takes his arm and makes more noises of disapproval over the wound but it’s mostly for show. A weak attempt to distract himself from the warmth of Crowley’s skin beneath his palm and the mystery of his strange new tattoo. Even as he cleans the gash thoroughly, his gaze wanders curiously back to Crowley’s chest. The snake, wrapped seductively around the sword, seems to be staring back at him.

 

He clears his throat. “Couldn’t you simply heal yourself?”

 

“If I could, I’d have done it, wouldn’t I?” Glaring into the middle distance, Crowley mutters something under his breath about stupid kids getting themselves into trouble and would have looked bad on the paperwork. Catching sight of Aziraphale’s soft expression, he scowls. “Oh, just shut up and work your magic, angel.”

 

Smothering a fond smile - mostly because he has a feeling it would only irritate Crowley to see it - Aziraphale sets aside the bloodied cloth and presses a gentle hand over the wound. Crowley stiffens at his touch and as Aziraphale begins to will muscle and skin to knit itself back together again, he grimaces. In an effort to distract him from the sting, Aziraphale finally address the elephant in the room. “So…that’s new.”

 

“Hmm?” Looking dazed, Crowley follows his gaze to the tattoo prominently displayed on his chest and grunts. “Oh. S’a tribute.”

 

Aziraphale hums, watching Crowley’s skin heal over. The gash disappears and with a little nudge, so does the scar left behind. Shiny, unblemished skin is all that remains. Unable to help himself, he strokes a fingertip over his handiwork and feels Crowley shudder beneath his touch. He pulls away as if burned, suitably chastised. “A tribute?” He asks, hoping Crowley doesn’t notice the flush of his cheeks. “To what?”

 

With an evasive shrug, Crowley leans back in his chair to examine his healed shoulder and says, “My origins, of course.” Before Aziraphale can prod any further, he nods his thanks and reaches for the wine once more. “Are you going to share that bloody pastry or what?”

 

ii. ribcage; versailles, 1785.

 

Strolling the gardens of the Trianon Palace, a copy of The Sorrows of Young Werther tucked under his arm, Aziraphale breathes in the warm summer air and allows himself a stolen moment to miss the Garden. Standing in the twilight, surrounded on all sides by trees and sweet-smelling wildflowers, the sound of a trickling waterfall in the distance, he can almost imagine he’s back there again. Standing guard over the Almighty’s beloved humans and doing his best not to laugh at any of the serpent’s jokes.

 

Speaking of the devil himself…

 

He freezes, grip tightening briefly around the spine of his book, as he spots Crowley wading out of the stream just ahead of him. He isn’t surprised to see him, of course. They’ve both been guests of the Queen for the past several weeks, dining on roast duck and swilling champagne, skirting the edges of her extravagant revelries and catching each other’s eyes from across the room.

 

While Aziraphale had come to Versailles in hopes of softening the violence of the revolution he can smell coming, Crowley had insisted he was only there for the parties. Aziraphale isn’t entirely convinced but he doesn’t press the issue. It’s rather nice to have a familiar face around.

 

So no, it isn’t surprise he feels as he watches Crowley emerge bare and dripping out of the stream and onto dry ground. The setting sun casts him in warm shades of red and orange, setting his copper hair alight and doing something rather spectacular to his eyes; turning them a molten shade of amber that’s almost luminescent. Droplets of water glisten on his chest, catching the sun just enough to appear like glowing drops of light. Unmoving, his traitorous human heart seemingly lodged in his throat, Aziraphale fancies for a moment he might be looking at Crowley before he Fell - ethereal and beautiful, bathed in the light of heaven.

 

Not surprise at all, he thinks, wrenching his gaze away. Something else entirely; something he has not the courage to examine properly.

 

Aziraphale unclenches his fingers around the binding of his von Goethe, letting out a slow, uneven breath. Pasting on a smile, he forces his numb legs to move in the direction of Crowley rummaging on the ground for his clothes. His old friend hasn’t noticed him yet, fastening his trousers and running a slender hand through his damp hair. He scans the ground, clearly looking for something, and mutters aha when he finds his tunic drooping from the low-hanging branch of a nearby tree.

 

As Crowley lifts an arm to snatch his tunic from the clutches of a wych elm, Aziraphale’s gaze catches and holds on the sight of black lettering inked down his ribcage. A few more quiet steps and he’s just close enough to make out what it says:

 

doubt that the stars are fire

doubt that the sun doth move

doubt truth be a liar

 

Hamlet had written those very words to Ophelia. Crowley pulls his tunic over his head, effectively hiding the tattoo from Aziraphale’s curious gaze but not before he notices the final verse is missing. But never doubt I love. He might have wondered why Crowley omitted that particular line but on reflection, it’s easy enough to understand. Love is hardly a demon’s territory but doubt? Aziraphale imagines Crowley must be old friends with the concept by now.

 

“Aziraphale,” Crowley says, not even glancing at him. As if he’d known he was there all along. “If I’d known you were coming, I’d have waited.”

 

Aziraphale clears his throat, fighting back a blush at having been caught staring. “Oh?”

 

“Mm.” Crouching to fetch his boots from a patch of wild lavender, Crowley glances over his shoulder with a smirk. “Tempting an angel to skinny dip? Would have gotten a commendation for that one.”

 

Grateful to the ever-fading light for hiding his pink cheeks, Aziraphale scowls. “Very funny.”

 

Crowley snorts, sinking gracefully into the grass to pull on his shoes. “There’s a masquerade tonight,” he says, brushing a smudge of dirt from the supple leather of his boot. “You going?”

 

Eyeing him uncertainly, Aziraphale admits, “I hadn’t decided. Why? Up to no good again?”

 

“Oi, I can’t help it the whole ‘let them eat cake’ thing was taken out of context like that. The humans did that without any help from me.” Crowley lifts his head, his gaze softened and imploring without his dark glasses to hide his eyes. Aziraphale wonders if he knows he’s very nearly pouting. “Come on, it’ll be boring without you. Just standing about fending off Lamballe and watching Her Majesty make eyes at von Fersen the Younger all night.”

 

Shifting uneasily, Aziraphale darts his gaze out over the trickling stream and the forest beyond it, unwilling to let on that he had decided to go the moment Crowley had asked it of him. It just wouldn’t do to reveal how eager he is to spend time with the demon. “And you’ll behave yourself?”

 

“Merely a spectator.” Crowley eyes him soberly, placing a lofty hand over his heart. “On Satan’s honor.”

 

With a huff, Aziraphale relents, “Oh, fine. But only because they’ll be serving those scrumptious little tarts with the raspberry filling.”

 

It isn’t technically a lie. He does have quite a soft spot for Marie’s decadent taste in pastries.

 

Crowley grins at him and busies himself with pulling on his other boot, looking as pleased as though he’d accomplished some sort of temptation. As if Aziraphale had ever been tempted to do anything but what he’d asked in the first place. Aziraphale doesn’t mind. Letting him believe he’s getting away with something is far better than the alternative.

 

Hovering over his shoulder, Aziraphale lets his gaze linger briefly on the loose-fitting tunic Crowley wears, damp and clinging to his skin in some places - hiding another of those tattoos he seems so fond of. He bites his lip. “I thought you preferred the funny ones.”

 

In the middle of tucking his trouser leg into his boot, Crowley stills. His jaw clenches so tightly a muscle in his cheek twitches. He looks away, refusing to meet Aziraphale’s bewildered stare. For a long moment, he almost believes Crowley isn’t going to say anything at all but after a tense beat in which Aziraphale wants to shove his foot into his mouth, he finally replies. “Still do.”

 

He offers no other explanation and Aziraphale hasn’t the nerve to question him further, watching in silence as Crowley climbs to his feet and brushes the grass from his clothes. He runs his fingers through his hair one more time and turns on his heel, striding away. Aziraphale stares after him, wondering if perhaps Crowley had changed his mind about the masquerade after all.

 

Silently admonishing himself for opening his mouth in the first place, he almost misses the way Crowley pauses and inclines his head. “Come on, angel,” he calls over his shoulder. “Before they run out of those tarts.”

 

iii. ankle; soho, 1956.

 

Dante’s Inferno is in the wrong place. Someone - possibly a customer, or possibly (probably) Crowley - had moved it into the non-fiction section. Balancing a stack of wayward poetry in one hand, Aziraphale reaches for the slim little volume, intending to stick it back where it belongs, when the ruckus nearby reaches a level verging on unholy.

 

Well you said you was high-classed, well that was just a lie…

 

He sighs, leaving Inferno where it is and dropping the rest of the poetry as well. Concentrating on inventory when one has a demon only one room away, warbling drunkenly along with the music playing on the telly is quite simply impossible. Dusting off his hands, Aziraphale abandons the task altogether and moves toward the source of the noise.

 

Crowley had shown up this afternoon with a bottle of wine and some of those indecently expensive chocolate biscuits from Waitrose that Aziraphale likes so much, using them as bribery to slink inside and commandeer the sofa. From what Aziraphale can discern by the sheer noise, Crowley had also taken the initiative to move the small television - kept mainly for his use anyway - downstairs from Aziraphale’s tiny flat.

 

Ducking his head into the back room only confirms his suspicions. Sprawled across the sofa as though he has no control over his own limbs, Crowley lounges with a bottle of wine dangling from his fingertips as he stares at the television and croons along with the man on the screen. His bare feet wiggle on the coffee table, as though he can’t keep them still. He isn’t the only one, apparently. The audience on the telly is going wild. A few of the young ladies seem to be having some sort of fit.

 

Aziraphale really can’t see what all the fuss is about. Though as he watches the dark-haired young man onscreen gyrate his hips to scandalized applause, he has to wonder if he and Crowley had ever met. “Must you listen to that racket quite so loudly?”

 

Looking well past tipsy and on his way to belligerent, Crowley glances up with a frown. He shifts to look at Aziraphale properly and one trouser leg shifts just enough to reveal a flash of his ankle. And another tattoo. A feather of all things, glittering white and silver as it curves and curls delicately over the fine bones of Crowley’s ankle.

 

Aziraphale stares at it, momentarily hypnotized.

 

“Oi, he’s the next big thing, I’ll have you know.” Crowley grins broadly, sudden and sharp. “I’ve made sure of it.”

 

Aziraphale scoffs, forcing his eyes away from the tattoo. “This newfangled…bebop you’re so terribly fond of is nothing more than a flash in the pan, my dear.” He steps around the coffee table and takes the bottle from Crowley’s slack fingers, miracling a pair of glasses instead. He pours them both a generous measure, pointedly refusing to ask the question he wants to ask.

 

Why a white feather? Why not black?

 

He can only assume it must be another tribute - perhaps to who he was before he Fell - and bringing it up might spoil Crowley’s lazy good humor. As curious as he is, Aziraphale isn’t willing to risk it. As disruptive as Crowley’s visits tend to be, he prefers them infinitely to the ringing silence when he leaves.

 

The flash of delicate white at Crowley’s slender ankle lingers in the corner of his eye but he does not give in to the temptation to look at it again. Instead, he settles on the armchair across from the sofa and sips primly at his wine. Gaze fixed determinedly on the television screen, he says, “Mark my words, Crowley. In ten years, no one will even remember this Presley fellow’s name.”

 

Crowley squawks, laughter in his voice as he sits up to argue with him. His trouser leg shifts again, hiding his ankle - and the feather - from view once more. Aziraphale, caught up in the easy familiarity of bickering with Crowley, forgets all about it. Really.

 

iv. lower back; dowling estate, 2013

 

Mrs. Dowling’s plants look nothing like the ones in Crowley’s flat, despite Aziraphale’s best efforts. He pokes at a lackluster Russian Sage and tries to remember the tips Crowley had given him, carefully ignoring the more ominous ones such as don’t show the little bastards any weakness. As far as he can tell, he’s doing all the things he’s supposed to do but it isn’t quite enough.

 

Aziraphale sighs mournfully. He hadn’t been very good at looking after the last garden he was in charge of so he has no idea what made Crowley think the role of gardener would suit him. Luckily for the roses, he isn’t above a miracle or two to keep them from wilting. “Not to worry,” he murmurs to a particularly ill-looking bloom. He presses a fingertip to the drooping petals, watching as the color brightens. “Everything is going to be just fine.”

 

“You can’t make me!”

 

Less startled than he should be by the childish outburst, Aziraphale glances wearily across the yard as Warlock hurdles past at speed. He glances over his shoulder, as if to make sure his nanny is still following, before he takes off around the side of the guest house and disappears. Sure enough, Nanny Ashtoreth isn’t far behind. Aziraphale smothers a grimace the moment he spots Crowley stalking across the grounds.

 

Their little charge has been particularly…hellish today and Aziraphale suspects Crowley of harboring illicit fantasies of luring the boy out to the pool and pushing him in. Normally perfectly composed and impeccably dressed - not a hair out of place or a wrinkle in her jacket - Nanny Ashtoreth looks a bit rattled this afternoon. Hair askew and curls going limp, she looks quite simply murderous. Jacket long since abandoned, her expensive blouse has come untucked and the normally starched collar is rumpled beyond hope.

 

Hissing irritably about little boys who refuse to take a sodding nap, Nanny Ashtoreth pauses to scoop up a Loki action figure left abandoned in the middle of the yard. The rumpled blouse slips momentarily up her back and that’s when Aziraphale spots it. Just there, at the small of Crowley’s back - a little dove with its wings spread in flight.

 

Hidden behind the roses, Aziraphale allows himself a moment to stare.

 

What does a demon possibly need with a dove tattoo? A symbol of peace and hope is hardly Crowley’s forte. It is a lovely depiction, though. The bird is plump and pure white, completely perfect. It reminds Aziraphale of the ones he so often liked to use in his magic tricks when he practiced. Crowley had always rolled his eyes but he’d never said no to a demonstration. Perhaps he had a soft spot for the creatures after all.

 

And then Nanny straightens, toy clutched in an angry fist, and the tattoo disappears beneath fine silk once more. Aziraphale blinks, feeling his cheeks heat as he glances away a moment too late. She spots him lurking behind the roses and stifles a smirk. “Brother Francis,” she mutters, giving a stiff nod. “How’s the garden?”

 

“Oh,” Aziraphale says, too rattled to bother with the accent. “Just…pipping.”

 

Eyeing a drooping azalea Aziraphale had missed in his earlier miracling, Nanny Ashtoreth adjusts her sunglasses and fluffs her hair. With a dainty sniff, she leans in close and purses carefully painted lips against soft pink petals. Aziraphale stares, bewildered. And then her lips curl back in a vicious snarl and she hisses ferociously. The azalea trembles and quakes. Aziraphale imagines if it had a mouth, it would have shrieked.

 

“Crowl - Nanny Ashtoreth, please!” Aziraphale shoos her away, patting the flower with consoling fingertips and refusing to admit that the petals do seem to have perked up a bit. “I refuse to garden with fear.”

 

She shrugs. “Suit yourself, Brother Francis.”

 

With one last warning glower at the azaleas over the rim of her glasses, she turns on her heel and marches away after the missing Antichrist. Aziraphale turns away from her retreating back, forcefully shoving thoughts of doves and nannies far from his mind. “Hush now,” he says, crooning at the quivering flora around him. “The wily old serpent is gone, I promise.”

 

v. hipbone; mayfair, 2019

 

Despite the certainty that he would never admit even to the Almighty that he had ever imagined such things in the first place, Aziraphale quietly admits to himself that actually being with Crowley is not quite what he’d thought it would be. It’s far, far better.

 

Even in his fondest imaginings -  succumbed to only when alone and well into his cups - he had been sure any encounter would leave him feeling at once deliciously fulfilled and vaguely guilty about falling into temptation. And the first part is certainly true. Everything about falling into bed with Crowley had been delicious; more than any delicacy he’s ever dined on. But Aziraphale is quite relieved to discover not a smidgen of guilt. With Crowley’s arms around him and the soft, sweet sound of his even breathing, what on earth and in heaven is there to feel guilty about?

 

Head on Crowley’s stomach, Aziraphale hums a few bars of Moonlight Serenade and tries to come up with some other way to celebrate their first night of freedom from Above and Below. Happily, nothing else at all comes to mind. Nothing else could possibly compare. He turns his head, nuzzling Crowley’s belly.

 

Above him, Crowley hisses out a content sigh.

 

Aziraphale bites back a smile, opening his eyes and blinking at the ink etched neatly into Crowley’s hipbone. A series of numbers and decimal points listed seemingly at random. He lifts a hand and traces a fingertip over it cautiously. Quietly delighting in the knowledge that after years of turning away and clenching his hands, he can reach out and touch whenever he likes.

 

At this point in the evening, there isn’t truly a bit of Crowley that he hasn’t touched yet but he’d been careful so far not to pay particular attention to any of his tattoos despite his fascination with them. It had always seemed to be a subject Crowley broached with reluctance in the past and he hadn’t wanted to be the cause of Crowley pulling away from him.

 

Now, he feels Crowley tense beneath him as he finally musters the courage to ask, “What’s this?”

 

“S’a tattoo.”

 

Aziraphale holds in a sigh. “Yes, dear. I can see that. But of what?”

 

“Coordinates.”

 

“You’re being terribly enigmatic.” Aziraphale prods a fingertip into Crowley’s bony hip and hides a smile when Crowley swats at him weakly. “Coordinates to what? Or where, rather?”

 

Crowley heaves a put-upon sigh and avoids his gaze, staring resolutely at the ceiling. “Home.”

 

Realizing he won’t be getting any more hints from Crowley, Aziraphale begins to mentally review every location he can think of. Hell? Definitely not. Eden had never really been a home to either of them. His flat here in Mayfair is hardly lived-in. If he thinks back far enough, he can remember a little villa in Spain that Crowley had been relatively fond of…

 

“Oh, for someone’s sake - I can hear you thinking.” Crowley groans, shifting beneath him. “Don’t make me say it, angel.”

 

Keeping his hand curled over the tattoo on Crowley’s hip, Aziraphale lifts his head with a baffled frown. “Say what?”

 

Crowley clenches his jaw so tightly Aziraphale can almost hear his teeth grinding together. A high spot of color appears on his cheekbones and he breathes out through his nose, nostrils flaring. Just when Aziraphale is about to apologize for prying and attempt a go at kissing him back into good humor, Crowley growls softly and admits, “The bookshop, all right? It’s coordinates to the bloody bookshop.”

 

Home.

 

Aziraphale stares at him, utterly poleaxed. “You-” A sudden thought occurs to him, even as warmth floods his veins like heavenly sunlight. “The sword and the snake-”

 

Crowley sighs. “You. Me. Our beginning.”

 

“The Hamlet verse-”

 

“You liked that one.” Crowley sinks his teeth into his bottom lip and admits with a mumble to the ceiling, “Liked me for making it a hit.”

 

“I liked you anyway.” Aziraphale hesitates, thirsty for answers. “The dove?”

 

Crowley huffs and mutters, “You and your bloody magic tricks.”

 

Burying a smile in the warmth of Crowley’s flat belly, Aziraphale murmurs, “Knew you liked them.”

 

“Don’t.” Crowley snarls vehemently, then confesses softly, “Like you though.”

 

“Yes, I’m beginning to suspect.” Aziraphale tilts his head up just in time to see Crowley roll his eyes. “And…the feather on your ankle?”

 

Peering down at him in exasperation, Crowley asks, “You really don’t know?”

 

Aziraphale gazes back at him, feeling inexplicably bashful. “A tribute?”

 

A smirk curls Crowley’s tempting mouth. “Something like that.”

 

Swallowing tightly, Aziraphale ducks his head and stares with stinging eyes at the coordinates etched into Crowley’s lovely skin. All these years - centuries - of silent yearning, sure that a demon couldn’t possibly be capable of love, let alone with an angel - and Crowley has been harboring his own affections in plain sight. He has burned right alongside Aziraphale and instead of being a coward like him and saying nothing or saying words he thought might scare Aziraphale away, he’d made his body a love letter written in permanent ink. A monument to a longing never to be acknowledged, nor erased.

 

“Crowley,” he breathes, overwhelmed. So in love he wonders how this earthly vessel can bear it. “You soft-hearted serpent.”

 

Lifting his head from his pillow just enough to glower, Crowley threatens, “I will push you right out of this bed, Aziraphale. Don’t think I won’t.”

 

Aziraphale beams, lowering his mouth to the bookshop coordinates and sealing them with a kiss. Peering at Crowley through his lashes and pleased to find his annoyed expression utterly soft once more, he admits, “I love you awfully, you know.”

 

“Yeah.” Crowley sighs, dropping his head back to his pillow. His fingers begin to sift through his white-blonde hair and Aziraphale leans into the gentle touch with all the eagerness of six thousand years. “I know.”

 

vi. hands; south downs, 2025

 

The scent of freshly brewed Earl Grey and warm scones fills the breakfast nook as Aziraphale settles into the chair across from Crowley. With the windows open, the fragrance of Crowley’s prize begonias wafts through on the morning breeze, along with the sound of little Liam James down the road romping about with his new puppy.

 

Across the table, Crowley appears half-asleep as he scrolls through his mobile. Still in his black silk pajamas and his hair sleep-rumpled, he doesn’t appear to notice Aziraphale’s fond study of the pillow crease on his flushed cheek. “Any plans for the day, my dear?”

 

Crowley reaches for a scone slathered in cream. “Just threatening the wisteria.”

 

“Go easy on the poor things - it isn’t their fault we’ve had so much rain recently.” Aziraphale sniffs when Crowley only eyes him balefully, unmoved. “At least try being nice first.”

 

“And reward their bad behavior?” Crowley scoffs, stirring his tea. “I don’t think so.”

 

In the middle of reaching for another scone, Aziraphale doesn’t reply, distracted by the brand new ink on his ring finger. It still startles him every time he catches a glimpse of black out of the corner of his eye but in the best possible way. Like browsing his bookshelves and finding a splendid first edition he’d forgotten he had. He bites his lip, twisting his hand this way and that to admire it. “Are you certain it suits me?”

 

Crowley pauses mid-sip of Earl Grey and the smug glint in his eye is entirely indecent. “Like nothing else, angel.”

 

He smiles, his heart fluttering like a mad thing in his chest as Crowley strokes his bare foot over Aziraphale’s calf beneath the table. “And yours, my dear,” he says, gazing tenderly at the matching eternity symbol winding its way elegantly around Crowley’s ring finger. “I do believe it’s my favorite so far.”

 

“Yeah?” Crowley leans back in his chair, teacup cradled in his palm and his foot making a scandalous path up Aziraphale’s leg. The morning sun slanting through the open window makes his eyes glow amber. A slow, wide grin curls his mouth and Aziraphale thinks fleetingly, joyfully: husband.  “Mine too.”