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“crowley?”

 

“hmm?”

 

crowley sprawls on aziraphale’s couch, boots kicked up on the armrest.  his eyes are closed, but that doesn’t mean he doesn’t know aziraphale is looking at him.  his gaze has held a certain weight he can feel on the very heart of himself for the past few decades.  the end wasn’t the end, and neither heaven nor hell had reached out to either of them. without a purpose, all they’d done since then is keep each other’s company.  crowley’s fingers are looped lazily around the neck of a wine bottle, tipped precariously on the floor by one edge, the fate of it resting the curve of crowley’s hand.  they’ve both had too much, but it’s cold out and the booze makes him warm.

 

“who were you?  before you fell?  i don’t… i don’t remember you.”

 

the stars, transcendent, splay across his fingertips.  novas borne from his breath. newborn suns suckling at the white of his wings.  carving moons from the flesh of the universe. samael, smiling, glittering, his wings big bangs.

 

“no one important,” crowley mutters.  he hears aziraphale’s chair creak as he shifts.  hears his scoff.

 

“now, i simply find that hard to believe,” he says, sounding offended for him.  crowley waves the hand still attached to the bottle of wine and listens to it slosh precariously.

 

“doesn’t much matter now, though, does it?”  i’m a demon now, no blessing will change that.

 

“no.  no, i suppose not,” aziraphale says, into his cup of wine, it would seem.  crowley’s sunglasses bite into his ears until he falls asleep still drunk.

 

-

 

crowley can’t see the stars from hell.

 

he thinks it’s part of his punishment, to be barred from what he built.  to be unable to seek solace in the silver light of a star filled night. he spent a long, long time down there, and when he finally came up , and gave free will to humanity - when night fell, he nearly wept , for above him all the lights of the cosmos sparkled down and beckoned him home

 

-

 

all he did, all he did , was do what was asked of him.  just not in the way she wanted.

 

-

 

crowley has been a demon for a long time.  not as long as others, maybe, but he couldn’t help the fact that he always felt different than them.  while that was a blessing in certain areas (he did not want his body to rot like the rest of him), in others, it was just another reminder of how she scorned him.

 

and maybe, maybe , that’s what brought him so close to aziraphale.  that he wasn’t much of a demon to begin with. he was telling the truth when he said i don’t see what’s so wrong about being able to tell the difference between good and evil, anyways , because, in the beginning, he always had.  and that made him a bad angel. that made him just like aziraphale.

 

who never seemed to mind that he was, in fact, a demon.  even back when he shielded him from the first rain with his wings.  all the way to now, sitting in the bookshop once again.

 

“you know, my dear,” he says, lifting his eyes from the book he’s reading, “you don’t have to wear those when it’s just us.”

 

crowley looks up from the echeveria he’d left on the till counter, whom he had been gently bullying into growing a bit wider.  aziraphale is smiling at him patiently, attentively, and he can feel himself blister under that kind of attention. other than having the ability to actually turn into a snake, his eyes had been the biggest change.  a mark for all to know who tempted humanity from the garden (they should call eve a hero). he’d been mostly neutral about them until they started to scare people. until the crucifixion. then he’d created dark glasses.

 

“yeah, i know,” he says, giving up on the plant and tossing himself onto the couch.

 

“they don’t scare me, you know.”

 

crowley clenches his fingers over his heart, right where it hurts.  “i know.” 

 

angels, whether fallen or not, are still beings of love.

 

he takes his glasses off and puts them on the side table.

 

-

 

after the end that wasn’t, crowley finds himself at aziraphale’s side, more often than not.  he doesn’t mind much what they do, as long as he can be near him. he didn’t fit into heaven.  he didn’t fit in in hell. but here, on earth, beside an angel who’s not quite an angel, he can feel confident in the fact that he’s horrible at being a demon.  they sit in dialysis of one another, halfway fallen, meeting somewhere in the middle.

 

which is why, somehow, they end up in the british museum.  crowley hadn’t actually been inside in decades, because it’s not really his style.  but aziraphale had wanted to go, and asked with some sort of nervous energy that crowley didn’t fully understand.

 

he didn’t, until he’s standing in front of one of the paintings.  

 

he didn’t know that the humans remembered him.

 

but there he is, in white-winged glory, taking up a whole wall, glorious.  angelic, trumpet poised to his lips, staff in hand he finds it hard to catch his breath, and he is frozen still, some emotion he shouldn’t have anymore welling up inside of him.  they remembered him .  even god, who sent him forth, told him to create, told him they will suffer, so you must heal , who damned him for asking why?   doesn’t remember him.  she doesn’t mourn for him.  she doesn’t mourn for any of them.

 

he stands there for a long time, his jaw working, before he recognizes aziraphale’s presence beside him.

 

“you know,” aziraphale says slowly, after a short while, “you do look rather fetching in white.”

 

crowley lets out a ragged breath, his eyes falling to the inscription on the frame of the piece.  it is god who heals .

 

“you knew?”  he says, not unkindly.  he can see aziraphale nod in the corner of his vision.  he turns to look at him but crowley can’t look back. behind his glasses, he is looking up, and his chest is tight for reasons he can’t fully explain.

 

“i had - had reasons for suspicion.” 

 

slowly, crowley reaches his hand out, and curls his fingers into aziraphale’s.  

 

“all i asked,” he starts, stops, needs to breathe, “all i asked is why she would make something and then make it suffer.”

 

thousands of years ago, the look aziraphale gives him would have started a supernova.

 

“will you say it?”  crowley eventually asks.

 

“say what, my dear?”

 

crowley swallows fire, can almost count all his wings, can almost fathom the farthest reaches of space being rendered before his many eyes.

 

“my old name.  i can’t say it.  will you say it?”

 

there’s a pause.  aziraphale comes closer, until they are moulded side by side, like the four legged creatures god first made and then cut in two.

 

raphael.

 

he says it so tenderly it feels like prayers used to.  crowley gasps, sharp and ragged, and the water that rolls down his face would have been holy once, some time ago.

 

-

 

by the time aziraphale had used his wings to shield him from earth’s first rain, crowley had been alone for a very long time.  long had lucifer morphed into something he did not recognize. long ago had the demons figured out there was something very, very wrong with him.

 

-

 

when crowley really thinks about it, he thinks he can remember when his last bit of faith left him.

 

he knew yeshua’s fate.  everyone did. and he did his best, showed him the kingdoms of the world.  and later he’ll crack a joke about it, standing there, just behind aziraphale.  but at the time, he just wanted him to have some wonder, before he went. and his heart broken - cracked wide open as they strung him up on the cross - wept for him.

 

when everyone was gone and the guards were asleep, crowley tried for the first time in several thousand years to heal.  the blood never really did wash off. they will suffer, and they will need to be healed.

 

he’d never wanted more to have never questioned her.

 

-

 

“some of ‘em wrote me out of the bible, you know.”

 

they’d come home for a nightcap, and crowley doesn’t really know when azriaphale’s bookshop became home, but it did.  and he has to be honest with himself, it’s not the flat that’s home. it never was. it was never heaven or hell or anything in between.  and not that he’s not striving for some fake goal for a group of demons that don’t even like him, he feels he can be a bit more generous with that realization.  aziraphale stops pouring crowley’s drink and looks up at him.

 

“oh, crowley -”

 

“nah, it’s alright.  fell before i could really do anything for ‘em anyways, right?”  crowley takes the glass he’s handed and shifts his legs out of the way so aziraphale can seat himself next to him.  aziraphale turns so their knees are touching, and it’s become so familiar, them touching, but it still thrums through crowley like some desperate prayer.

 

“you have to know that’s not your fault,” azriaphale says, not even bothering to take a sip from his drink before he sets it on the table.  crowley scoffs.

 

“sure fucking felt like my fault,” he mutters, “i was made to heal and protect.  how dare she give me such capacity for - for -” he chokes on the word love , serpentine tongue tripping until he makes a short noise and carries on “- and leave me helpless to save anyone .”

 

aziraphale puts and hand on his knee.  “you’ve saved me. more than once.”

 

“yeah?  and what about the one time i didn’t?”  aziraphale looks confused, mouth open, brow scrunched, so crowley just continues.  “i thought you were dead , angel.  i couldn’t save you.” 

 

there’s a pause that’s too long, one that itches under crowley’s skin until he feels like he could shed it.  aziraphale is looking at him with intent. “i forgive you,” is what he settles on, giving crowley’s knee a squeeze.  something liquid and hot rises in crowley’s chest, some other emotion he’s not supposed to feel but does anyways. demons should only feel rage.  greed. not soft things like shame. like love .  these are just left over, things that should have died with the angel he used to be, but hell couldn’t burn them off.

 

“well you shouldn’t ,” he spits with all the venom of the snake, “i’m unforgivable.  i’m - i’m useless .”

 

he shakes with it, just a little, like a leaf on the apple tree during the first rain.  his throat constricts around the hot stab of tears but he won’t cry. he is already so weak .  “i’m not an angel anymore.  i’ve never been one.  you should hate me.  i’m a demon .”

 

aziraphale’s hand comes up to crowley’s cheek, and it is so gentle and sudden that crowley actually startles, eyes wide behind his glasses.  aziraphale brings his hand away as if burned, concern written on the lines of his face, but he doesn’t go far. selfishly, with trembling fingers, crowley cradles that hand in his own and puts it where it wanted to go and leans into it.  squeezes his eyes shut and drinks in the warmth of aziraphale’s palm.

 

“you’re not,” aziraphale says quietly, but with a conviction so strong it makes crowley’s heart lurch, “you’re not, not to me.”

 

aziraphale .”  crowley didn’t know he was shaking until aziraphale takes his glass from him and sets in on the table with a chromatic sound.  “i’m not - i don’t -”

 

“i know, darling,” aziraphale says.  he strokes his thumb just under the rim of crowley’s glasses.  “but i didn’t fall in love with raphael. i fell in love with you .”

 

crowley is frozen stock still, staring, and everything is stuck until the hammering of his heart pounds his lips loose.  he swallows, his throat sticky. “you - you?”

 

yes , crowley.  please, let me see your eyes.”

 

slowly, crowley nods.  carefully, like plucking an apple from a tree, aziraphale slips the sunglasses off of crowley’s face.  underneath, his eyes are round and wet, and aziraphale just smiles that tender smile. his hand comes back up, touches underneath his eyes.

 

“beautiful,” he breathes.  crowley can’t help himself.

 

“i have loved you for so long ,” he says, and the shocked expression that slips onto aziraphale’s face would have amused him at some other time.  “ so long .  i loved you in my sleep, in the garden, ached for you when you were away, would have - would have drank myself to the end of the world, if you had died.”

 

“looks like we’ve both been rather daft,” aziraphale says.

 

crowley has to laugh, just a short one, because by someone they had.  “i’m not supposed to love,” is what comes out instead.  aziraphale’s mouth twitches up, but his eyes are sad. they’re very close, and aziraphale radiates heat like a star.

 

“and i’m not supposed to love you , but when have we ever done what we’re told?”

 

and so this is what unconditional love feels like.  crowley, in all his time, hadn’t had the chance to feel it; god loved him if he didn’t ask questions.  lucifer if he obeyed. but this was different. he could still sense love, though dulled around aziraphale, where he own feelings sullied the air around them.  but this was different. pure. sanctimonious. terrifying .  the possibility of being loved back, a nameless road crowley has never driven down.  he shakes , and he’s scared , but he knows, even if he runs, he’ll crawl home to aziraphale every single time.

 

“my love,” aziraphale says, like now that he’s said it he can’t stop, “i do believe i’d like to kiss you now, if you don’t mind.”

 

crowley’s heart leaps to his throat; six thousand years of yearning threatens to spit it at aziraphale’s feet.  “ please ,” he says, and he doesn’t care that he sounds desperate, he doesn’t care , and in the split second he has, aziraphale looks just as gone before he leans in and kisses him, finally, finally , soft and slow and sweet.

 

crowley made universes, and nothing has felt more like a rebirth.

 

when aziraphale finally pulls away, crowley is unsure of when his eyes closed, or how his hand had gotten onto aziraphale’s soft thigh, or when the other had tightened around aziraphale’s wrist.  aziraphale doesn’t go far, stays close enough to share breath with crowley, but his hand slips from his cheek to the back of his head, fingers curling into the hair at the nape of crowley’s neck.

 

angel ,” crowley whispers.  there’s an awed expression on aziraphale’s face, and there’s a pressure in crowley’s chest that he’s only felt around aziraphale.  there’s a heat in aziraphale’s eyes that crowley has only dreamed about, so he takes it as permission of press back into him, lifting his trembling fingers to his soft jaw and bringing his mouth back to aziraphale’s, more desperate, more heady, trying to crawl his way into him.  and aziraphale kisses him back, circling an arm around his waist and the hunger of it pushes crowley back until he has to throw an arm behind him to catch himself, making a noise in his throat. and he should have known, should have known , that kissing aziraphale would be like this.  he’d dreamed of it. but the real thing? was better than anything his mind could think up.  he parts his lips, and aziraphale drinks him down like fine wine. licks and nips and tastes until crowley feels like his eyes are going to roll back into his head, until his wings manifest behind him with a shudder and he sends one of their glasses skidding across the table.  aziraphale stops kissing him, pulls back enough that he can look crowley over, so he can bring one hand to rest over crowley’s thundering heart.

 

“look at you,” he breathes, reverent, like a prayer, “heaven was so foolish to get rid of something like you.”

 

“stop it,” crowley rasps, his stomach twisting so bad it makes him out of breath.  one of his wings it cramped against the backrest of the sittee, the other stretched out invitingly.  they had been an accident, a loss of control that crowley isn’t used to, and he’s about to banish them when aziraphale touches one, and crowley’s breath catches and he holds very still.  aziraphale gives a slight shake of his head.

 

“i know you’ll be angry at me for this but -” aziraphale straightens one of crowley’s feathers, even though they are meticulously groomed “- you are kind , crowley.  kinder than gabriel, certainly.  loyal, and just. and i know - i know you’ve lost your faith in any of it, but you never - you never lost your faith in me .”

 

crowley leans in, kisses him once, twice on the lips, just because he can, and revels in the way aziraphale’s eyes flutter back open after a little while.  “nowhere left to put it, i’m afraid.”

 

aziraphale snorts, but he seems more interested in stroking crowley’s wing than stringing together a rebuttal.  it isn’t long before crowley’s strung out nerves start reacting to that touch, too, every pass of aziraphale’s hand rippling waves of warm pleasure through his skin.  a feather comes loose in aziraphale’s delicate grip, and he spins it between his fingers, so black it absorbs the low light, drinks it in like the far reaches of the universe.  crowley hadn’t minded the change in colour, once his feathers grew back. he could spread them and be reminded of the cosmos, newborn, ready for him to shed light. aziraphale puts the feather in his pocket, not discreetly. 

 

“take me to bed, crowley.”

 

they’re still so close that when crowley starts the curve of his nose brushes aziraphale’s.  “what?”

 

i said , take me to bed.”  aziraphale looks so smug, and so soft, and his fingers in crowley’s feathers are distracting.  crowley swallows.

 

“yes.  of course.  whatever you want,” he says, and aziraphale laughs at him, and he scowls, still overwhelmed with it all.  aziraphale leans in and just rests his forehead on crowley’s, and that touch alone makes crowley’s heart squeeze and his fingers tighten.

 

so aziraphale leads crowley upstairs by the hand, fingers woven together like any regular molecule.  crowley allows him to take his jacket off, and then plucks each button open from aziraphale’s clothes with a reverence he hasn’t shown anything since before the fall.  they curl up, facing one another, on the bed, and crowley folds a wing over aziraphale, and the last thing he remembers before he shuts his eyes and falls into a dreamless sleep is his smile, holy enough to fill the moon.

 

-

 

when crowley awakes, there’s a feather in his mouth.

 

it had been several long, long millennia since he woke up with a feather in his mouth.

 

it’s not even his feather, for it tastes like a lightning strike.  he cracks an eye open, hissing at the sunlight pouring in from the window.  he sees white feathers, and the previous night hits him like the ground after a bad fall.  he lurches, and grabs a fistful of feathers in his haste not to rocket off the bed, and aziraphale makes a noise as his wing twitches in crowley’s gasp.

 

“do be careful,” aziraphale says, sounding like he just woke up himself.  this is different from when they’d shared crowley’s flat before; they had slept far apart and hadn’t had all sorts of confessions beforehand, and aziraphale hadn’t made him a makeshift blanket with one of his wings.  crowley took far longer than he should have orienting himself, found that he’s covered aziraphale with one of his wings after shifting onto his belly, and his angel was going through it idly with his fingers, and looking at him so soft and sweet he thinks he might burst into flames.

 

“wasn’t so bad,” crowley says, feels his mouth twist when aziraphale looks so damned confused.  “falling. wouldn’t have met you otherwise.”

 

crowley lets aziraphale push him over, crawl on top of him, his heat good on crowley’s reptilian skin.  he beams down at him, his wings held high in some sort of half hearted dominance, his feathers shivering their excitement.  he’s careful not to kneel on crowley’s feathers, splayed out underneath him, contrasting with the off-white of the bedspread.

 

“you remarkable creature,” he murmurs.  crowley’s eyes droop in response, just on instinct, just a little spark of something lighting in his gut.  he rolls a shoulder as best he can pressed into the mattress.

 

“would have been one of those corporate sods, more likely than not.  not much fun,” he says, before adding a rushed “now kiss me, angel.” 

 

and he does.  scoops up crowley’s jaw in his hand and kisses him.  crowley can’t help it, he smiles into it, and aziraphale does too, once he figures out his lips have met teeth.

 

“we have a lot of catching up to do,” crowley says.  aziraphale nods, smoothing a thumb over the sharpness at crowley’s cheek.  crowley’s heart squeezes, wherever it ended up.

 

“move in with me?”  aziraphale sounds almost hesitant, and something warm and blooming rattles in crowley’s chest.  he reaches, one hand to the nape of aziraphale’s neck, the other around his back to tentatively draw a few short feathers between his fingers.  aziraphale’s eyelids flutter.

 

“little late for that, eh?”

 

aziraphale snorts, smile on his face.  “you know what i mean. i want to trip over your socks and deal with your grumpiness in the morning.”

 

“i’m not grumpy.”

 

“quite.”

 

crowley can’t pretend to pout for long.  he drags aziraphale for another chaste kiss, before uttering a put upon sigh.  “alright, you’ve convinced me.”

 

aziraphale beams , so bright it almost hurts to look at, serpentine eyes slitting small as aziraphale peppers kisses over crowley’s cheeks, his nose, his eyelids.  at the core of him, crowley is lurched into a past where he moulds stars in his hands. it’s the same feeling. equal parts wonder and love; the very things that space is made of, he feels for aziraphale.

 

“we could get a cottage,” aziraphale says after a particularly lingering kiss to crowley’s mouth.

 

“whatever you want, angel.”

 

-

 

in began, as it will continue, with a garden.  except there are no temptations here, only a series of vaguely traumatized houseplants.  and sometimes, when the night is especially clear, crowley will load aziraphale up into the bentley and drive to the cliffside to sit on the sparse grass.  sometimes they bring wine, other times they don’t. when they look up, crowley can name every glimmer of light, even if there are twice as many stars as usual.