"Your plants are looking especially terrified this evening," Aziraphale said, examining the leaves with a critical eye. It seemed a safe enough topic of conversation. They'd been arguing over Crowley's treatment of his plants for decades. Besides, what else did one talk about after defying Heaven and Hell, after choosing each other and forsaking all others, dedicated anew to an eternity together among the continuing human world? Most potential avenues of discussion seemed a bit fraught at the moment.
"Look at this poor little thing, it's shaking like a - well, a leaf, I suppose, but the point is, it looks about ready to vibrate out of its pot with terror. You've really frightened them, Crowley."
"Why thank you, angel," Crowley said, and Aziraphale turned to him, ready to explain that he hadn't meant it as a compliment, when his eyes fell again on the puddle of goo he'd had to step over when entering the loft. His stomach did a strange flip at the sight.
"Would you like me to clean that up?" he asked faintly.
Crowley followed his gaze, and his lips ticked down into a frown. He snapped his fingers, attempting to miracle it away, but the gooey remains of Ligur seemed disinclined to vanish. "I can do it," Crowley said, taking a step towards the goo.
"No, I don't want you anywhere near it," Aziraphale said, surprising himself at the strength of his own protest. "If there's any holy water remaining... oh Crowley, I shudder to think what might have happened. I keep picturing you setting up a trap for them, in danger every second of spilling even a drop of that water - I must have been insane to give it to you - "
Aziraphale stopped as Crowley's hands fell against his shoulders. "Angel," he said, his voice soft. "I'm alright. Giving me the holy water saved my life. You saved me."
"Well," Aziraphale said, swallowing. Following an instinct he didn't know how to explain, he lifted his hands and removed Crowley's glasses for him. Crowley blinked at him but didn't protest, and didn't remove his hands from Aziraphale's shoulders. "I'm glad of that."
"It was more than I was able to do for you," Crowley said. Aziraphale stared into his eyes, which had gone a bit hazy with remembered pain.
"What are you talking about?" Aziraphale asked.
Crowley shrugged, breaking eye contact and taking a step away, ticking a thumb against his lower lip in a nervous gesture. "Your bookshop. I couldn't find you anywhere. For the first time since the day I met you, I couldn't feel you here on Earth, and there was fire everywhere. I guess I thought..." he broke off and sucked in a hissing breath. "Well, it doesn't matter. You're here, anyway. I'm just sorry I left you alone, and - "
"You thought..." Aziraphale said, blinking a couple of times as understanding broke over him. Things had been a little confusing while he'd been discorporated, and then everything at the airbase had commanded his attention. But thinking back to the sight of Crowley, weepy and drunk and clutching Agnes Nutter's book, a few missing pieces suddenly thudded into place. "Oh, my dear," he said, taking a step towards Crowley. "I'm very sorry."
Crowley shook his head, and he glanced around the room looking for his sunglasses, which Aziraphale still held in his hands. The angel held them out towards Crowley, who took them, but didn't put them back on, just stared down at them like he'd never seen them before. "As I said, you're here. It's all done with."
"I can't imagine what I would have done," Aziraphale said, completely unsure of how he was going to finish the thought. It was just that it was suddenly very, very important to him that Crowley understood. "If I thought I'd lost you. I can't even imagine how - I really think it would have destroyed me, Crowley."
This conversation was extremely uncharacteristic for both of them. They'd been each other's closest (read: only) friend for centuries and centuries, and the one thing they didn't do was go about discussing it with one another. Aziraphale had always privately believed that they were beyond such petty concerns, that words could hardly matter in the face of their deep bond. But he was starting to revise his opinion on that slightly, as he watched his friend's expression shift to something soft and thankful at Aziraphale's clumsy attempt to explain.
"All I wished for was that I'd been with you," Crowley said, setting his glasses down on the kitchen counter. "To save you, if I could, or to die with you, if I couldn't."
"Crowley," Aziraphale said, feeling unaccountably wretched. "I wanted to go with you. I should have said that. I wanted to go to Alpha Centauri - there's nowhere in the universe I wouldn't have gone - "
He was interrupted, because Crowley had taken a few swift steps towards him, placed his hands on either side of his face, and pressed a soft, slow kiss to his lips.
And everything was simple, after that.
Aziraphale enjoyed a good glass of scotch every now and again. He preferred wine, but occasionally the mood struck him, and he found something decadent and made a night of it with Crowley. It put him in a dreamy, philosophical mood. He and Crowley would spend hours debating over topics of good and evil, or the resilience of the human spirit in the face of overwhelming odds against them, or really whatever struck their fancy. Drinking scotch would remind Aziraphale of other times he'd drank and enjoyed scotch, and would make him look forward to the next time he'd drink it, but it still wasn't something he felt the need to do very often. It was an irregular, if still gratifying, pleasure.
He felt much the same way about sex. He understood why most mortals seemed to enjoy it, but with a life as long-lived as his own, he rather thought a fixation on carnal pleasures to be a bit ridiculous and impractical. He'd had many partners over the millennia, each one carefully and fondly remembered, some more long-lived than others, but he'd never been, as the humans would call it, in love with anyone he'd shared a bed with. He'd never been in love at all, precisely, because human definitions of emotion didn't quite fit around his feelings for Crowley in any satisfactory way.
He and Crowley defied description. They were as ineffable as the Almighty's plan itself, and he'd always rather enjoyed it that way.
In any case, Aziraphale had had sex, with varying degrees of enjoyment, over the millennia. But he'd never had sex with someone he - someone who was Crowley, and that seemed to make all the difference. It felt astoundingly good to find yet another way he could love and be loved by Crowley, and he found himself almost angry that they hadn't been doing it all along.
He also found that he really couldn't quite catch his breath. He felt boneless, like every inch of him, inside and out, was at peace.
"No time like the present, I suppose," he mumbled weakly, as Crowley collapsed half on-top of him. He too was breathing very heavily for a being who had no need to breathe at all.
Crowley laughed weakly into his collarbone. "I think I'm offended by your decidedly un-ruffled tone, my friend."
"I'm plenty ruffled," Aziraphale assured Crowley. He could feel his wings, which had popped into the visible spectrum at some point during the more transcendent part of the proceedings, still vibrating with aftershocks of physical sensation. Crowley sighed as one of Aziraphale's wing-tips fluttered across his own shoulder-blades. "You've ruffled me quite thoroughly, in fact."
"Oh, good," Crowley said, and he turned his head to kiss Aziraphale's shoulder. "Finally."
If they had been inclined to share notes, Crowley and Aziraphale would have discovered that their thoughts on sex were quite similar. Crowley's affairs over the centuries had tended a bit more towards perfunctory one-offs, pleasurable in a simple, physical sort of way, with the added bonus of being technically a "temptation" and therefore something he could report back to Hell when they started nosing around. He liked it well enough, once every couple of years or so, but hadn't really bought in to the way humans talked about it. The number of people who had killed and been killed because of sex - the poems, the songs... he'd never quite wrapped his head around it, and thought that the humans were just up to their usual nonsense, making mountains out of mole-hills.
But now? Well. The sex itself had been mostly secondary to the simple feel of being close to Aziraphale. No barriers between them, no need to talk in circles around how they felt. The trust, the affection, the desire to hold and be held - it was something Crowley could get used to. In fact, it was something he was absolutely sure he could not live without, now that he'd had it. Just the permission to lay here like this on his own bed with his angel, the feeling of their breaths and heartbeats synched up under each other's hands... it was better than the orgasm had been, although that had been nothing to sneeze at either.
With a frown, Crowley hoped he'd have the opportunity to do all of this again. They'd both been just a touch too wound up, a touch too relieved to be alive and together, to really make it last, and there were plenty of things Crowley hadn't had a chance to try before it was over. Tomorrow, they were enacting one final gambit for their survival, and the odds of pulling it off were by no means guaranteed.
They'd worked the plan out in hushed tones and half-coded language on the long bus-ride back to Crowley's apartment, Agnes Nutter's prediction their only guide. Crowley in Aziraphale's form, and Aziraphale in his. It was a gamble, but a good one, he thought. Aziraphale would be unfazed by Hell's most reliable method of murdering a demon, and Crowley could likely withstand the Hellfire or whatever other methods of dispatch Heaven might have up their sleeves.
And he knew they could pull it off - he knew Aziraphale as well as he knew himself, knew his mannerisms and his principles. And he trusted his angel to know him just the same, to stand brave in the face of danger and protect Crowley's body as well as he might. A sudden thought forced a huff of laughter out of Crowley's chest, and he felt Aziraphale's nearly inaudible hum of sleepy inquiry vibrating through his chest, where Crowley's head still rested.
"I was just thinking that it's nice we've seen each other like this first, instead of waiting for tomorrow," Crowley said.
"I suppose it would be different, seeing your body from inside of it - " and when Crowley snorted, Aziraphale tsked, and continued: "oh hush, must you always jump to the most deviant possible meaning?"
"I am a demon, remember?"
"Hard to forget, now I've been so entirely tempted," Aziraphale said, and Crowley felt a bit of warmth pool low in his gut. He knew the angel was being sarcastic - mostly - but didn't care.
"This whole exercise would have been a bit more difficult to navigate from inside an unfamiliar body," Crowley said, and Aziraphale hummed again, this time a bit thoughtful.
"Difficult, yes, but also perhaps a little intriguing," the angel ventured, and Crowley's head lifted from its resting place on Aziraphale's chest.
"You're incorrigible," Aziraphale admonished.
Crowley shook his head, unable to stop what he was sure was an unforgivably besotted expression from spreading across his face. "We can do this again, in each other's bodies, if you want. Might be interesting."
And the angel blushed at that, the first time all evening he'd seemed even the slightest bit flustered. "Well. Um. Perhaps we can - well, perhaps it can be our reward, if we actually live through tomorrow."
"We will," Crowley said, as firm as he could manage.
"And if they figure us out?"
"Well then we're in no worse shape than we would have been had we done nothing," Crowley pointed out. "Either we both live, or we both die, and that's - "
"Not true," Aziraphale interrupted. "What if your side discovers the truth, kills me, but my side doesn't figure it out, and you walk free? Or... or the other way..." he trailed off, his eyes widening a bit at whatever he saw now on Crowley's face.
"That's not an option for me," Crowley said, voice low. "If you die, I'm dead too. I have absolutely no interest - "
"It might not be up to you," Aziraphale said gently.
"Like Hell it isn't," Crowley said, and the conversation had put him in a bad enough mood that he finally actually rolled off of Aziraphale, lying instead next to him on his back.
"Crowley, dear," Aziraphale began, with hesitation.
"You're going to survive. That's the end of it, angel."
"Obviously I'll do my best - "
"You've completely ruined the afterglow," Crowley said, trying to make his voice into a teasing pout. He really wasn't in the mood to contemplate losing Aziraphale. Not when they'd made such a narrow escape - not when he'd stood in a burning bookshop and felt his entire world dying inside of him. Not when there was still such a very good chance that everything could fall apart in the morning.
"Well," Aziraphale huffed. "I do apologize for being pragmatic." But he softened almost immediately when Crowley rolled his eyes, and turned towards him to brush a kiss against the side of Crowley's lips. "I'm sure we'll make it through. We always seem to."
And what do you know? The angel was right.
There had not been a single hint of awkwardness between them before, during, or immediately after sex. They hadn't been even the slightest bit odd with each other when switching bodies, coaching each other on movements and vocabulary. Things had been as normal as ever while they sat on that bench, while they switched back to their own bodies, while they dined at the Ritz for hours, relishing the freedom of having nothing to do.
And then it came time for them to go home, and Crowley felt, to his great irritation, like an inexperienced, awkward, human, trying to navigate the beginning of a bloody romance with his best friend.
Which was really a stupid way of thinking about it - Crowley knew that he and Aziraphale had loved each other for centuries. He knew that it had taken the angel significantly longer to get over the implications of such a love and decide to trust in it, but he'd been willing to be patient, and now they were finally free to do whatever they wished, without interference from above or below. It wasn't some new, uncertain thing between them. Crowley's devotion to Aziraphale was nearly as old as the world itself. And Aziraphale had to have felt the same for much of the time -
"When did you know?" Crowley asked suddenly. They were walking back to the Bentley, as slowly as they could manage in some unspoken agreement to prolong the evening even further. He hadn't thought the words through before he said them, but didn't mind. "That you loved me?"
Aziraphale twitched slightly at that, and his hand brushed lightly against Crowley's wrist. Would it be strange, the demon wondered, to reach out and grasp that hand, tangle their fingers together as they walked back to the car?
Aziraphale took a long moment to answer Crowley's non-sequitur, and finally said - "it's a bit of a complicated question for me. Maybe you go first."
"It's an easy question for me," Crowley said, trying not to sound offended. "You gave your flaming sword away, and I knew."
Aziraphale stopped walking. They were only twenty or so yards from the car, but Crowley stopped too, turning to look at him. His expression was difficult to pin down. "Well," Aziraphale said, ever practical. "You really might have said something, Crowley."
"But you already knew, and besides, what was I meant to say - "
"I did not," Aziraphale said. "I mean - that is to say, I had my suspicions, over the centuries, but I never could tell if I was just projecting things."
Crowley's eyebrows scrunched together. "I love you," he said finally. "I always have. I find it hard to believe that you didn't see that."
"I'm an angel, Crowley. We're meant to love everything. I loved you from the beginning too, but I told myself it was just the sort of angelic... obligatory love, or whatever you wish to call it. And when you were kind to me, when you brought me gifts or took me out for a meal you didn't care about eating just because you knew I enjoyed it - I wondered if..."
"If what, angel," Crowley said. This conversation had gotten away from him in a somewhat big way.
"If you were this decent to other people, not just me. Maybe you were just... I don't know - nice, maybe redeemable or - "
"So I was a project to you, then, is that it - "
"Oh, for Heaven's sake, Crowley, obviously not," Aziraphale snapped. "Don't pretend to misunderstand me and get all offended, it's tedious. I'm saying that I denied how I felt for a very long time because I wasn't sure if you were capable of returning my affections. I realized - I eventually figured it out, but it took me a lot longer than it took you. When I say it's a complicated question, it's because I've always loved you, but I wasn't always completely aware of the fact. And I certainly didn't know you'd been - not the whole time in any case. I hadn't realized it went both ways."
Crowley softened a bit, taking a step forward and laying a hand on Aziraphale's arm. "And when did you realize..."
"When you saved my books, during the blitz. I stood there and I watched you walk away, out of the rubble of that Church, and I was so overwhelmed with affection for you that I considered chasing you down and kissing you right then and there."
Crowley blinked at him behind his glasses, feeling a phantom prick of tears. "I wish you had."
"I feel awfully sorry for making you wait so long."
But that wasn't quite right, and Crowley frowned, reaching a hand up to brush his fingers along the side of Aziraphale's face. He was rewarded when the angel's eyes flickered shut, a gentle smile forming on his lips. "I don't think of it like that," he said. "What we did last night, angel, it's not something I need from you. I hope you know that. I would have been happy even if we never - "
"It's the same for me," Aziraphale interrupted, eyes opening and going wide as he looked slightly up into Crowley's glasses. "I enjoyed it, and hope to repeat the experience, but it's not the... well, it's not the point of you and me, of us, is it?"
Crowley nodded, and then, a bit contradictory given the topic of their conversation, he leaned in and kissed Aziraphale very softly on the mouth. It was hard to put it into words, what the two of them shared together. Physical pleasures were all well and good, but his yearning for Aziraphale over the millennia had never been carnal in nature. He was glad to add just one more aspect to their bond, thrilled, in fact, that Aziraphale wanted him just the same, but they were - they transcended all such mortal means of love, even as they engaged in them.
"What do we do now?" Aziraphale asked as Crowley broke their kiss, and the slight awkwardness in his voice was enough to dispel the last remnants of Crowley's own discomfort.
"You mean now that we're without an apocalypse, and our respective bosses are terrified we've become invincible? Now that we're being left properly to our own devices, for the first time in our entire lives?"
Aziraphale smiled at that, his own awkwardness suddenly gone, and nodded his head. "Yes, precisely."
"I suppose for a start, I should probably move in with you," he said, grinning, and Aziraphale's eyes went bright and shiny. He laughed when Crowley lead him over to the passenger side of the Bentley and held the door open for him. "Your chariot awaits, angel. Let's go home."
Ultimately, of course, it had been naive to suppose Heaven and Hell would truly leave them alone. He and Crowley had discussed at length which side was more likely to seek revenge, each insisting that the other's former employers were the real villains, and much more inclined towards evil-doing than the other.
"Gabriel is a bigger dick than anyone I've ever met in Hell," Crowley said one afternoon as they were feeding ducks in the park. "My side - my former side - is far too lazy to come chasing after one single demon and angel duo, especially when they think I'm some sort of holy-water-immune aberration. Gabriel, on the other hand - well, he hates you in particular, angel."
"Well of course he does, and the feeling is quite mutual," Aziraphale said, gently tossing a chunk of bread into the water. "But Heaven has to maintain a certain image, doesn't it? Gabriel's personal vendetta wouldn't look good to the Almighty. Unless he has a legitimate excuse worked out for why he'd continue chasing me around, when I'm clearly doing no harm to anyone - "
"Bread is bad for ducks, you know that, right?" Crowley said, and Aziraphale tsked at him.
"The point is, if Hell is lazy, Heaven is still less likely to get involved in the mortal world without reason. Nobody wants to bother with the paperwork."
"I hope we're both right," Crowley said, leaning slightly over until his shoulder bumped into Aziraphale's.
But they weren't. Crowley, it turned out, had the measure of Heaven and Hell a bit better than Aziraphale, who had, after all, been practically brainwashing himself into obedience for the better part of six hundred centuries.
When Heaven came for them, they didn't stand a chance in - a chance in... well, you know the saying.
It happened on a Friday morning. The apocalypse-that-wasn't had been nearly three months ago, and Aziraphale and Crowley hadn't spent a single day of that apart. Aziraphale knew that if they had another six thousand years together, this degree of closeness probably wouldn't last - Crowley could drive him crazy sometimes, and he knew the feeling was mutual. But they were still in a bit of what the humans might call a honeymoon period, still luxuriating in each other, in their freedom. And still, of course, privately terrified of retribution from Heaven or Hell or Both.
They woke up together in Aziraphale's bed (which Crowley had quietly miracled into something bigger and nicer, with silk sheets), and Aziraphale made a big breakfast and then enjoyed it heartily while Crowley picked with mild interest at a fresh scone, and then they'd gotten into a half-hearted argument about whether they should stay in that evening, or go and see a local theatre production of King Lear, which Aziraphale had heard such good things about, and then, after sliding in to a familiar debate about the merits of Shakespeare's tragedies in general, Aziraphale's gramophone, which had been quietly playing some of Crowley's bee-bop, suddenly scratched to a halt.
"Aziraphale, Principality," a voice said from the gramophone. It was a cool, measured voice, crisp and bureaucratic, but it was the most terrifying thing Aziraphale had heard in quite some time. On some sort of primal instinct, he took a step closer to Crowley without looking, and reached a hand out. Crowley had moved as well. He grabbed Aziraphale's hand and squeezed tight. Both of them stared at the table, and then, after a moment's silence: "And the Serpent, Crawly. Demon of Hell."
"Um. Yes, we're both... present," Aziraphale said after another pause. Crowley rolled his eyes.
"And who might this be?" Crowley asked, and even through his glasses, Aziraphale could tell Crowley's eyes were narrowed into slits.
"You will be collected shortly," the voice answered, still polite, but dodging the question.
Crowley squeezed Aziraphale's hand so tightly that he felt the bones of his knuckles grinding together. "Angel. We should - "
"Yes, quite," Aziraphale agreed, and as one, they turned to the door of the bookshop. It might seem futile, running from the powers of a big H, but Aziraphale and Crowley had expert knowledge of Earth, specifically London, that might grant them some sort of advantage -
Or, an entire cadre of angels would meet them on the sidewalk right outside the shop. The last thing Aziraphale remembered was the sensation of Crowley's hand being ripped out of his own, and then the world went fuzzy around him.
When he awoke, he was in a nearly empty white room, and he was sitting in a sturdy metal chair. Next to him were a couple of angels that Aziraphale hardly knew. They were holding fine silvery chains in their hands.
"Restrain him," a voice said from behind Aziraphale, and his attempt to turn around to glare at the speaker was arrested as he was pinned firmly to the chair, the chains wrapping neatly around his arms and legs. Aziraphale huffed out a frustrated breath, trying in vain to keep his calm. He couldn't see anything in the room other than the angels tying him down, and the speaker of that haughty command: Gabriel, Archangel.
And no Crowley, anywhere to be found. Aziraphale gulped, picturing the demon tied up in a similar fashion in some other room of Heaven, perhaps with Michael or Uriel attending. He blinked the image out of his mind. There was no use agonizing over things he couldn't control.
Instead, he fixed Gabriel with a baleful glare: "Are you honestly going to torture me? Really, Gabriel, isn't that more of a downstairs sort of thing?"
Gabriel smiled at him, his eyes flat and cold. "You have yourself to thank for the idea, Aziraphale," he said. "You and the demon Crawly, your little Arrangement, as it were. He does a divine miracle here and there, you a temptation... share the load, hm?"
Aziraphale shuddered, trying very hard once again not to picture what they might be doing to Crowley right at this instant.
Gabriel continued, as the angels on either side of Aziraphale's chair tightened the bindings around his arms. "We figured we'd help Hell punish Crowley, and when we're done with that, we'll toss you downstairs and let them finish you off."
"What are you doing to him?" Aziraphale said, all pretense of calm suddenly impossible to maintain.
"We're doing this," Gabriel said, nearly hissing on the final word, and he back-handed Aziraphale, hard across the face. It wasn't an ordinary slap. Not that an ordinary slap would have been a pleasant experience, mind you, but Aziraphale could feel holy energy, angelic force, reverberating through his face and down into his stomach, or the ethereal equivalent of a stomach, anyway. He yelped, the pain radiating through him, and Gabriel did it again, this time striking the other cheek.
Gabriel grinned down at him while Aziraphale fought to catch his breath. "A creative idea, no?" The other angels in the room were quietly retreating, leaving him alone with Gabriel. Through the pain, Aziraphale did his best to maintain his dignity.
"You're going to slap him around a little?" Aziraphale said, trying for a scoff. "How creative indeed." Truthfully, the thought of anyone inflicting pain on Crowley was enough to make every hair on his body stand on end, enough to make a divine fury erupt within him. Anyone who laid a finger on Crowley would have the full wrath of a Principality to contend with. But all things considered, it could really have been so much worse. He hadn't seen a single sign of holy water anywhere.
Gabriel, however, was laughing at him. He lunged forward, seeming almost lazy about it, and socked Aziraphale in the stomach, another blast of angelic pain exploding up through Aziraphale's soul, making him gasp. "You misunderstand me, Aziraphale," Gabriel said. "We're not slapping Crowley around. We're slapping you around. Don't you see?"
Aziraphale opened his mouth to express his confusion - hadn't Gabriel just said they were doing a trade with Hell? Crowley would get the Heavenly punishment, and Aziraphale the Hellish one? But before he could say any of this, Gabriel closed his fist and clocked him across the jaw, snapping Azirpahale's head to the side and causing an explosion of fresh pain to ricochet through him. He cried out, unable to stop himself.
"- you fucker, you goddamn bastard, don't touch him - " a voice rang out mid-sentence from somewhere to the left, and Aziraphale, still heaving for a metaphorical breath of air, turned his head and saw a large projector screen across the room. The image on the screen was of Crowley, pacing a small white room, devoid of furniture. His glasses were nowhere to be found, his eyes wide and radiating pure fury.
Gabriel squeezed a hand around Aziraphale's throat before Aziraphale could speak, and then, reaching his other hand behind him, was handed a small silver blade by one of the other angels, who quickly retreated after handing over the knife. Before Aziraphale had time to even be properly frightened of the weapon, he felt its sharp edge cut into his cheek-bone, a well of angelic blood seeping out. The pain was blinding. This was not a normal blade any more than Gabriel's physical brutality had been of the mundane, human sort. Aziraphale screamed, or tried to, but the pressure of Gabriel's hand against his windpipe made it nearly impossible.
"I'll kill you!" Crowley shrieked, running at the door of his room, his face pale with dread.
Gabriel released Aziraphale and turned to face the projector, waving cheekily at Crowley with the hand still holding the blade. "Enjoying the show, serpent?" he asked.
"You - "Aziraphale gasped. "You - this is cruel, even for you, Gabriel."
It was creative, Aziraphale had to admit. Certainly unlike anything Heaven or Hell had tried in the past. They were going to use Crowley's obvious affection for Aziraphale to torture them both all at once, and, as far as Aziraphale could tell, maybe try the reverse by sending Crowley down to Hell and making him watch, while - oh fuck no. This was very, very, not good.
"Crowley," he croaked, turning to try and meet his friend's eye through the camera. "I'm alright, my dear - "
Gabriel struck him again, the handle of the blade smashing in to Aziraphale's jaw. Through the ringing pain in his ears he heard Crowley let out an animal sound of fury.
"Crowley," he tried again, and was hit in the stomach as a reward.
"Angel," Crowley gasped at him. "I'm sorry - I'm sorry, I tried to stop them - Oh God, please - " This last was said as Gabriel brought the knife up again, this time cutting a long line against the side of Aziraphale's neck.
"Don't look," Aziraphale said, trying to keep his voice level as the pain shuddered through him. The blood felt warm as it trickled down his neck and stained his collar. "Don't watch, Crowley - "
Gabriel was relentless. He kept the pain just on the edge of too-much. Aziraphale wasn't sure if he was capable of losing consciousness while in Heaven, but in any case, the angel in front of him didn't seem inclined to let him escape his punishment in any way, shape, or form. He kept up a pattern of small nicks with the knife and heavier, deeper blows with his fists. The grin on his face was malicious but controlled - he knew what he was doing, and he knew how to make it last.
"Let him go," Crowley wailed. "I'll rip you apart, I'll make you suffer, you haven't known real pain, but you will, you motherfucking - Goddamn it fucking STOP! Please! "
Aziraphale wasn't sure which was worse - the spiritual pain radiating through him from Gabriel's repeated blows and deft cuts with the holy weapon, or the sound of Crowley, unraveling into anger and despair, undone at the sight of Aziraphale in distress.
"It's quite alright," Aziraphale said to Crowley, breathless and aching from another new cut along the side of his face by his right ear. "Crowley, I'm alright, I swear to you - "
"You want to punishhh someone, punishhh me," Crowley hissed, ignoring Aziraphale and addressing Gabriel directly.
"Don't be stupid," Aziraphale said, alarmed and touched in equal measure, just as Gabriel responded to Crowley as well:
"Oh we are punishing you, demon. I'll admit, I was skeptical about the plan at first." He took a step away from Aziraphale, looking at him thoughtfully, circling the chair a couple of times like he was trying to decide what to do next. "I thought to myself, there's nothing so special about Aziraphale. Why would anyone love him enough to suffer at the thought of his pain? And a demon at that? But Hell was right. You're a goner for this pathetic little liability, aren't you?"
Crowley slammed his fists against he door. Aziraphale heard the rattle of it, but kept his eyes closed, trying to breathe through the pain of the six or seven stinging cuts on his face and chest. They hurt so much more than they should.
"This has been so very fun," Gabriel said, like he was thanking his hosts at a particularly enjoyable dinner party. "I almost hate to end it. Truly, Aziraphale, I could do this for hours." He cracked the flat of the blade against Aziraphale's collarbone, and Aziraphale let out a little squeak that was nearly inaudible underneath another shouted curse from Crowley. "But all good things must come to an end... and I think we may nearly be ready for the grand finale."
Crowley hissed, and Aziraphale, with a considerable effort, studied his face on the screen to see that he'd lost control over his eyes - they had gone full serpent. "You're a dead angel walking, Gabriel," he growled. "The ssssecond I get my hands on you - "
Gabriel laughed, back-handed Aziraphale again in a completely unrepentant sort of away, and then grabbed Aziraphale's shirtfront, yanking him half out of the chair so that his wrists pulled painfully against the magical ropes tying his arms down. "Are you going to beg?" he asked Aziraphale quietly, their noses nearly touching. "For your own life? For his? Because his turn is next, Aziraphale. Hell gets the honor of the actual torture, per our deal, but I think I'll ask if I can watch that too - "
Aziraphale jerked against his bindings, a thousand times more horrified at the thought of Crowley's pain, than he was about his own. "Why are you doing this?" he asked instead. "Why do you hate me this much?"
Gabriel squinted at him, but seemed disinclined to respond. "The next part is my favorite," he finally said, raising his voice so that Crowley could hear him, turning to smile at the overwrought demon in his empty room.
That did not sound good, Aziraphale thought wearily, but he had no time to meet Crowley's eye and try for reassurance. He blinked once against the pain throbbing through his entire body, and as he opened his eyes, he saw the world go blurry around him once again. He really had to figure out how they were doing that.
Aziraphale blinked again, and found himself in another room much like the one he'd just left. He was no longer tied to his chair, but was standing, blood dripping from his various wounds and a profound pain coursing along his countless bruises. The pain was enough that it was hard to focus. He tried to temper it, and after a few minutes succeeded, the roar in his ears fading slightly, the sharp pain along every knife-cut easing back into a dull thud. There was a projector screen in this room too, against the far wall. He took a step towards it, trying to think of plans of escape. He had to get to Crowley, wherever he was, and then -
He stopped, staring at the screen in confusion. Unlike in the room he'd just been in, this screen was split in two. One one half, he could see the same view of Crowley's empty prison, with the demon still trembling and spitting out curses, and on the other...
"What is this?" Aziraphale asked. It was the room he had just left, and he could see himself sitting on the chair, his body slumped and heaving for breath, Gabriel leaning over him with a maniacal smile on his face. "Is this a recording?"
"It's a simulation," a voice said in his ear, and he turned to see another Gabriel standing at his shoulder, hands clasped professionally behind his back. "As I said, it's the grand finale."
"Crowley - " Aziraphale said to the projector screen, but Crowley didn't answer. His eyes were wide, his hands shaking, as he watched the Aziraphale still tied to the chair.
"Oh, he can't hear you," Gabriel whispered. "He has no idea what he's looking at isn't real."
Aziraphale watched in horrified fascination as the Gabriel on the screen cut yet another line into the fake Aziraphale's collarbone. His own image twitched and moaned in pain on the screen, and Crowley growled out another desperate threat at the sight.
"Why, though?" Aziraphale said, blinking. "Why create a false version of yourself, of me, when you seemed completely unrepentant about doing damage to the real thing?" He was a bit proud of how collected he sounded. The pain was difficult to keep at bay with his powers, and he knew he couldn't hold on indefinitely, but for now it was working wonders.
"Because I don't really want to kill you," Gabriel said. He was standing close enough behind Aziraphale that he felt him shrug. "Well... I suppose that's not accurate. I'd dearly love to kill you, but I've promised to give the honor to my new allies downstairs."
"Kill me? But - " Aziraphale said, turning to look at Gabriel. But then the fake Gabriel, the one on the screen, spoke out, and Aziraphale spun to look at the image instead.
"Have you had enough, serpent?" he asked, grinning towards the screen showing Crowley. "Ready for me to end his suffering?"
"Crowley..." the fake Aziraphale moaned quietly. "I'm sorry. Don't watch - "
Crowley slammed his fists hard into the wall, again and again, his eyes wide and bright and terrified. "Pleasssse," he hissed. "Kill me if you mussst - let him go - "
"Any last words for your boyfriend?" Fake-Gabriel asked his prisoner, and fake-Aziraphale turned his head weakly toward Crowley.
"It's not your fault," he said. The real Aziraphale clenched his fists at the look of open longing and devastation on the image of his own face, and the equally heartsick expression on Crowley's.
"Angel," he said, soft and hoarse. "Aziraphale, please don't..."
The fake Gabriel circled once around Aziraphale's chair, and then smiled at Crowley on the screen.
"Oh, no," the real Aziraphale said, realizing what was about to happen just before it did. The image of Gabriel on the screen flipped the knife over in his hands almost casually, and then, with no further warning, plunged it down straight into fake-Aziraphale's heart.
One would think that watching a remarkably realistic version of oneself being impaled through the chest would be difficult to swallow. And Aziraphale supposed it might have been, if he hadn't had something much more terrible to contend with. As the false version of himself shuddered once and then went limp, clearly devoid of life, Crowley let out a yowl and threw his entire body against the door of his prison. "No, NO!" he screamed, slamming forward again. "Angel!"
"Crowley," Aziraphale said, his throat choked. "Oh, God."
The real Gabriel was still standing beside Aziraphale, watching with calm satisfaction as the false version untied the bindings around his victim's corpse, and Aziraphale watched a version of his own body slump out of the chair and crumple, unmoving to the floor. Fake Gabriel leaned forward to lift the corpse up, turned it so its unseeing eyes were facing Crowley.
Crowley was still throwing himself against the door, screaming, a mix of threats and curses and begging and -
"You're a monster," Aziraphale said coldly to Gabriel. "You're a fucking monster."
Crowley's hysterics lasted only a few minutes, in all reality, but to Aziraphale it felt endless. Eventually Crowley's yells of rage and pain were replaced with heaving, wordless gasps, and he stopped throwing himself against the door, instead slumping to the ground in front of it, his entire body shaking in pain and exhaustion. "Get on with it," he said, voice high and cracking, and quiet enough that Aziraphale almost didn't hear him. "End it, you bastards. Fucking kill me too."
"No," Aziraphale said to the screen, and then turned to Gabriel. "No."
"Hell gets to kill him," Gabriel said, shrugging. "They'll make you watch, just like we made him watch, but they get to finish you both off once and for all. At first I thought that was a little unfair, but ultimately it's better if Heaven has no blood on its hands."
"No - no blood on - " Aziraphale sputtered, reminded uncomfortably of his own words to Crowley, regarding the fate of a certain Young Antichrist. "You're evil." He turned back to Crowley, even though the sight of him, crumpled and defeated on the floor, was hard to look at.
"Come on, then," Crowley shouted. "Kill me. I thought Heaven was supposed to be merciful."
"I suppose I should go run a victory lap," Gabriel said smugly, and before Aziraphale could rip him apart with his bare hands, which suddenly seemed an extremely good idea, the angel had vanished, leaving Aziraphale alone in the room. He blinked, turning back to the screen, and saw that his own corpse, and the false version of Gabriel, had vanished as well.
Alone in the room, Aziraphale stared helplessly at Crowley, willing his body and mind to reach him somehow, to just get to him, to rescue him from his anguish.
"Gabriel has crossed a line," a voice mused from behind Aziraphale. He whirled around, but the room was empty. Still, it wasn't like he required a visible hint. He'd know that voice anywhere. That voice was the script with which his own existence had been written, and he had dropped to his knees in reverence without even thinking about it. "I usually wouldn't interfere in corporate politics," God continued. "But in this case, I think I'll have to make an exception."
He was undone. He was... something. Nothing that words could capture. It was the fire in the bookshop all over again but somehow this was worse because at least then the world had been ending. He'd been alone, but he'd had reason to believe it wouldn't last for long.
But now? Now he was -
He was -
He wasn't. There was nothing inside of him. He wanted death. Not just even in the sense of not wanting to be alive anymore. He wanted Death to show up right the Hell now and cart him away from this crap. He didn't know what happened to him if he died. He didn't know what an angel might expect for an afterlife, either. Was there any chance he'd ever see -
No. No, obviously not. Even assuming he and Aziraphale both got life after death, there was no chance that he'd be granted such a gift. Aziraphale was gone, lost to him forever. He'd had a mere six thousand years. And that - that was nothing. No time at all, when measured against the immensity of his heart. They had the wide world to explore, a world in constant motion. Nobody, immortal being or otherwise, could ever read all there was to read, taste all there was to taste, see all there was to see - humanity as a collective had outpaced the capacity of any individual's attention. And that was wonderful.
And that meant nothing - nothing - to Crowley, if Aziraphale wasn't there to share in it.
Fuck. Fuck this. He was hardly aware of his physical surroundings, but there was an ache to his knees, his body so used to being human-shaped that it had gone on feeling physical pain without his putting any effort into it at all. He made himself focus on it, the throbbing in his kneecaps from where they had hit the hard floor. He must have fallen at some point. He didn't quite remember it as a distinct action or choice; it just was. Like everything else about this moment, this day, this existence. He existed, and yet he wasn't real to himself anymore.
And then Gabriel walked into the room.
For a bright, nearly wonderful moment, Crowley felt a wash of anger overcome him, so pure in its intensity that it washed the grief right out of his bones. He was on his feet in an instant, blood boiling. He'd taken three swift steps towards the archangel - he was going to tear his head off with his bare hands, no time for anything fancy, just death, destruction, an ending of the most vile evil he'd ever encountered. Gabriel was a being who could look at Aziraphale, the best, most precious part of the whole universe, and - and hurt him. Gabriel wasn't just willing to torture and kill Aziraphale - he had enjoyed it. And Crowley -
Crowley was pushed back by a wall of force as soon as he got within a foot of Gabriel. He slid across the room and slammed, hard, against the wall opposite the door, only keeping his feet because the force was still pressing on him, holding him upright.
"You should learn your place," Gabriel said. Crowley blinked and felt the pressure ease. He stayed leaning against the wall. That pulse of anger had faded from him again, leaving only desolation in its absence. He fought for the return of that crisp, clear rage, but it eluded him. Gabriel took a step into the room, a horribly pleased smile curling across his face.
"Your Hellish brethren have been promised the honor of roughing you up. I'm a little disappointed I won't get the opportunity personally, but at least I already got to have my fun for the day."
A frisson of anger, but not enough - not enough to stand in the face of the emptiness that was growing inside of Crowley. It didn't matter what Gabriel said to him now. It didn't matter what he did. Or what Hell did. Or any of it. As long as it ended in death.
"So are you dropping me off downstairs, or is someone coming to pick me up?" he asked. Vaguely, Crowley could here the detached, nearly polite, tone of his own voice. Gabriel's eyebrows raised.
"What, that's it? No more foolish attempts to attack? No more screaming? I seem to recall you promising your personal brand of retribution."
Crowley looked up at him, at the cold, calculating glint in his eyes, and shrugged his shoulders. Honestly, what did he have left to lose? He might as well try for the bald, unvarnished truth, for once in his pathetic life. Maybe, he thought, it would hurt less if he let some of it out.
Unlikely, but hey. He was existing on borrowed and well overdue time.
God's plan was simple - get Gabriel out of the way, and let Crowley and Aziraphale escape back to Earth. Aziraphale had God's assurances that things would be handled from there, and they would remain un-assaulted by the denizens of Heaven and Hell. Aziraphale had no reason to doubt Her, and so didn't. Instead, as God's ethereal voice politely excused Herself so she could work out the details of the plan, Aziraphale watched the screen, where Crowley and Gabriel's interaction was playing out.
He watched as Crowley shrugged, looking at Gabriel with eyes that had gone dull.
"You've already taken away the only thing I care about," Crowley said. His voice was hoarse from the screaming, but it had gone dead now, cold in a way that was somehow more frightening than the hysterics from earlier. Aziraphale ached for him, wanted to touch him more than he'd ever wanted that before. He had the idea that if he could just run his hands through Crowley's hair, just hold his beautiful, precious head against his own chest, he'd be able to erase the wretchedness of this entire horrible day. He blinked a few times, feeling phantom tears that his body never bothered to actually produce.
Gabriel's eyes narrowed, and he paced in a half-circle around Crowley, still slumped on the floor. "So you don't seek revenge?" he asked finally, his voice cold. "You don't want to kill me? For murdering Aziraphale?"
Crowley flinched slightly, his eyes fluttering shut, and then he peeled them open with a shrug, staring blankly again towards the door. "Revenge won't bring my angel back, will it?"
Gabriel sneered at him, ground his teeth in undisguised loathing. "He was an angel, a Principality. He was never yours."
That was a Goddamned lie, Aziraphale thought, a fresh surge of devastation coursing through him. A filthy, fucked up lie, and Crowley had to know that. But instead of anger or resentfulness, Crowley appeared unfazed by Gabriel's latest taunt. He merely shrugged again, his shoulders drooping still lower.
"You're right." And then a long pause, before he spoke again, his voice so quiet Aziraphale could barely hear it. "But I was his."
Oh, Crowley, Aziraphale thought, undone. My dear. And then God's voice spoke in his ear again.
"It's time. You won't have much of it. Are you ready?"
Aziraphale nodded around the lump in his throat, and abruptly, Gabriel disappeared from Crowley's prison, his mouth open on another cutting sentence. Another blink, and Aziraphale found himself in an endless blank hallway, in front of a door. He didn't hesitate, just pushed it open.
Crowley was standing in the center of the room, still blinking somewhat uncertainly at the spot where Gabriel had just been standing. As Aziraphale took a cautious step into the room, Crowley's eyes snapped around to face him, and went wide.
"I - wha - " Crowley gaped at him, and then swallowed, hard enough that Aziraphale could see his Adam's apple bob. (Incidentally, Aziraphale wondered, not for the first time, why on earth the humans had named it that, of all things.)
The errant thought wasn't enough to distract him, however, from the magnetic pull of Crowley's incredulous, hopeful expression.
"It's me. I'm - I'm alright, Crowley."
Aziraphale saw the moment that Crowley had fully grasped the implications of what he was seeing. His eyes went impossibly wider, and he collapsed, utterly without grace, his knees hitting the floor with a hard smack. Aziraphale rushed forward, meaning to go to his knees as well, but Crowley grabbed at him blindly the second he was close enough and buried his face in Aziraphale's stomach, keeping him on his feet. Crowley wasn't sobbing precisely, but his breathing was loud and harsh in the empty quiet of the room, and for a long moment Aziraphale's throat was so tight he couldn't speak. "Crowley," he finally managed, and Crowley let out a groan and squeezed his arms around Aziraphale's hips all the harder, his face buried in the angel's sweater.
"Angel," Crowley said, muffled. "Aziraphale."
"I'm here," Aziraphale said, feeling inadequate in the face of this naked relief. He put a hand in Crowley's hair and stroked it, hoping the gesture was as comforting for Crowley as he always found it for himself.
Crowley began to raise himself from the ground, keeping his face against Aziraphale's sweater and slithering up him, quite serpent-like, keeping every possible inch of their bodies connected as he did so. The moment his face had reached the skin above Aziraphale's collar, he pressed his lips to it, up his neck, to his jaw, finally to his lips, an open-mouthed kiss that expressed desperation and relief more so than actual ardor.
Aziraphale gripped him as tight as he could, and let Crowley shake apart in his arms for several endless minutes. His own heart, which he kept beating even in Heaven mostly out of habit, was jack-hammering away as Crowley mouthed at him endlessly, dipping again to his neck, then up to his ear, then higher, to his forehead right along his hairline. Eventually Crowley slowed, gripping Aziraphale's waist hard enough that it might have been painful, if Aziraphale had had room inside himself to feel such things. "I thought I'd never..." Crowley said, low and shaky. "I thought you were. I felt. I felt."
"I know," Aziraphale said. "A horrible, cruel trick. I was trapped somewhere else, they made it seem like it was me, but it was only... Oh, Crowley," Aziraphale broke off, as Crowley hugged him, burying his face in Aziraphale's neck and breathing him in, deep, fortifying breaths like he needed to reassure himself. "I'm so - I'm sorry, my dear, my darling." Crowley let out a small sound of distress at the endearments, bringing his face up to kiss him again, and Aziraphale shuddered, trying to push himself even closer.
"We don't have a lot of time," Aziraphale continued, turning his face away from Crowley's with difficulty, as the demon pressed kisses against his temple instead. "They've done something to me, I don't think I'm strong enough to get us back to earth right now - "
"Done something?" Crowley said, his tone shifting to anger immediately. "Done what? Did he hurt you? Was that real?"
"Ah... well, yes, some of it was real, he switched me out only towards the end - "
"Oh, he's dead. Dead," Crowley snarled, yanking on Aziraphale's arm and tugging them towards the doorway.
"We really don't have time," Aziraphale protested. "I've found us an ally, to distract Gabriel and the others, but we'll need to work together to get out of here."
Crowley spun back towards him. "I'm going to fucking kill - "
"Yes, yes, dear, I understand," Aziraphale said, impatient and frightened and full of terrifying amounts of love. "Maybe later, but for now I need you to help me, alright? I need you to get me out of here, get me somewhere safe so I can heal."
It was the right thing to say. Given the task of protecting Aziraphale, of getting him away from his tormentors, Crowley's overwhelming relief and vengeful hatred seemed both to fall away from him, leaving only a very determined demon left standing. Crowley was never more lovely than when he had a quest he really believed in.
"Right, what do you need me to do?"
"I can get us back home, but I don't have enough - ah, fuel, so to speak, to accomplish it on my own. I've used a lot of my power to numb the pain and - " Crowley's eyes flashed again, and he gripped at Aziraphale's arms, chin quivering. Aziraphale hurried on - "And - well, in any case, if you could provide the power, I should be able to steer."
They'd never done anything like it before, but it was instinct. They grabbed each other's hands, and Aziraphale felt Crowley's power, the strength and steadiness of demonic energy, pooling through their joined flesh. He closed his eyes, took a breath, and when he opened them again they were standing in the bookshop.
Crowley sighed, his knees buckling a little as he fell forward again into Aziraphale, kissing him deeply for an endless moment. "Angel," he said as he pulled back, and then appeared to have no idea what to say next.
Aziraphale knew the feeling. "We should be safe here," Aziraphale said. "Apparently we have friends in high places."
"Her," Aziraphale said, raising his eyebrows significantly.
"Oh. Well, damn," Crowley said, running a hand through his hair. It was sticking up even more wildly than usual.
Crowley suddenly seemed to remember something, and he grabbed at Aziraphale's arm, steering him further back into the shop to their usual chairs, and depositing him in one of them. "You're hurt. Let me see."
Aziraphale smiled at him, and cupped a hand against his jaw. "You know, Crowley, I love you very much."
Crowley's expression clouded. "Maybe you shouldn't," he said darkly. "They hurt you because of me. They - "
"They used me to hurt you," Aziraphale corrected gently. "Just as they were planning on using you to hurt me. This isn't your fault. We both disobeyed."
"I convinced you - "
"Crowley, do be realistic," Aziraphale said fondly. Crowley was crouched in front of him, looking up into his face with an expression of mixed relief and devastation on his face. "If I had stuck to the Great Plan, if I had decided to fight for Heaven... do you really think - do you honestly believe..." he trailed off for a moment, unsure how to put it into words. "I never could have fought against you, my dear. I simply couldn't. My mind was made up a long time ago, even if I didn't quite realize it."
Crowley smiled at him, his lips trembling. "I love you. Please let me heal you."
Aziraphale did, relaxing his own powers and letting himself feel the full extent of his not inconsiderable injury. Crowley's jaw clenched when the lines of blood and bruising reappeared on his body, but he didn't say anything, just bit his lip in concentration and began to skim his hands over Aziraphale's body. The healing wasn't angelic, but it didn't feel sinful or demonic either. It felt like Crowley, felt like everything of who he was, pouring out of his hands and giving the gift of devotion and care. It felt a thousand times more intimate than sex, like the barriers separating them from one another had floated away, leaving them as one being, the way Aziraphale was suddenly sure they were always meant to be.
He lost all sense of time, all sense of himself as a physical being, as he surged forward into Crowley and met Crowley surging back. Aziraphale was a being of love, yes, but he'd never known anything close to this before. It wasn't precisely that he was reading Crowley's mind, more like he was reading his soul. He had no reason to doubt Crowley's love for him, but it was one thing to observe it and another to feel it, coursing through him. He tried his best to control the flow of his own devotion and love, to infuse every inch of Crowley with it, desperate for him to know exactly how cherished he was, and he could feel that too, feel Crowley's astonishment and joy at the absolute knowledge of Aziraphale's love. A feedback loop so lovely and gentle and soft and precious that it rounded the corner from happiness nearly into pain. Aziraphale never wanted it to end.
"You feel..." Crowley said at one point, his voice strangled.
"Yes," Aziraphale said, and there was no need for anything more. An interminable time later, Crowley slowly eased his hands away, and Aziraphale felt that indescribable bond start to lessen. He fell back into his own mind and body with no small reluctance, feeling a bit lonely. But the pain - the pain was gone, and his body had resumed its former immaculate appearance. Even the blood on his shirtfront was gone.
"Thank you," Aziraphale said simply, and Crowley nodded at him, and then buried his face in Aziraphale's lap.
"I wanted to die," he said.
"Yes, I know," Aziraphale said, his voice shaking. "He made me watch. He made me watch you watch me die, and - "
"Fucking sadist," Crowley hissed, still not lifting his head. "Can I kill him?"
"Absolutely not," Aziraphale said. "Far too dangerous. It's best if we let the Almighty deal with it directly." He lifted a hand and carded it through Crowley's hair, and was rewarded by Crowley's contented sigh, the nuzzle of the demon's nose against his trouser leg.
"But I want to kill him," he said, a bit petulant.
"Trust me, I rather do as well," Aziraphale said. "But I've been given certain assurances, and I think if we stay out of it, we really will be left alone this time."
"And you trust..."
"Asking me if I trust God is a bit blasphemous, even for you," Aziraphale teased, keeping his hands moving gently through Crowley's hair.
"What are we meant to do now?" Crowley asked him. His tone was difficult for Aziraphale to read. His voice was still slightly wobbly from fear and adrenaline, but the relief was apparent too. And maybe a hint of... apprehension. "Do we just - keep calm and carry on?"
"Well, I suppose..." Aziraphale scratched his fingers into Crowley's scalp and Crowley let out a little satisfied moan. "I suppose we deserve a vacation of some kind. Just... get away from it all."
Crowley pulled away from Aziraphale's lap and stood, tugging on Aziraphale's hands as he did so. When they were both standing, Crowley kissed him, once, twice, soft enough that it made Aziraphale's lips tingle with the promise of more.
"I think that sounds like a lovely idea, angel," he said. His eyes were fond, uncovered. Aziraphale really had no idea where his sunglasses had gone. "You know, I'd been working on something of a surprise for you. I love the bookshop, you know I do, but I thought maybe a cottage somewhere - "
"In South Downs," Aziraphale finished, and Crowley blinked at him. "Oh my dear, you're really not as sneaky as you think you are. Your search history - "
"You know about search history?" Crowley said, astounded.
"It's a recent discovery, admittedly," Aziraphale said. "And I'm very excited about our cottage. But I was actually thinking..." he trailed off, completely uncertain about the suggestion he was about to make. Crowley seemed to pick up on his hesitation, because his hand curled around Aziraphale's jaw, tilting his head up so they'd make eye-contact.
"What is it?" he asked, as soft and loving as Aziraphale had ever seen him.
And Aziraphale trusted it. He trusted Crowley, trusted the love they had for each other, more than anything else in the whole wide universe. So he smiled, and tilted his face that much closer to Crowley,'s, and spoke. "I was hoping I could take you up on your offer from before. I've always wanted to see Alpha Centauri."