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A Minor Indiscretion

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Roughly one year before Adam Young's birth

 

 

 

It occurred to Aziraphale that Crowley would probably see his little indiscretion sometime. Aziraphale didn't know how and he didn't know when. But the odds of probability were not quite in his favor.

Not when the two of them were so old and time so fleeting.

He stared at himself in the full-length, tarnished mirror in his bedroom and tilted his head. Then again, Crowley might not see it after all. That would require a level of nudity to which they weren’t accustomed.

Crowley had seen him in almost nothing less than a waistcoat, shirt, trousers, cravat or bow tie, wingtip spectators, socks, and a coat — not necessarily in that order — for decades now. Sometimes there was a hat involved. Fashion often changed and Crowley changed the most with it, embracing trends. Aziraphale was content to riff on the same general theme as long as he fit in.

But right this instant after a summertime evening’s bath, Aziraphale was as naked as the Almighty once intended humans to be. He chuckled to himself, thinking what folly it was to entertain the thought that Crowley would see anything more than the expanse of skin between his collar and chin. Maybe the one between his wrists and sleeves.

Then, as he thought things over, his chuckle turned to a frown. Now that was the strange thing. Stranger than an angel enjoying bubble baths or books or baba ganoush.

He should feel shame at the idea of being so exposed to Crowley and he didn't. Not for the same reason that humans felt shame, of course, and they weren’t even designed to feel that in the first instance. No, Aziraphale knew he should feel ashamed because of the simple fact that Crowley was a demon. In theory, he should have no thoughts of a demon ever seeing him in a prone state. He blinked at himself in the mirror.

The emotional intimacy they already shared was shocking enough. He couldn't imagine what that much naked flesh might do to the situation.

Well. He could. And had. Actually. Imagined what naked flesh would do to the situation. Aziraphale shook his head as the age-old philosophical question of whether or not an angel could fall for the sin of onanism came to mind. It’s not age-old. It is remarkably specific to you, the Principality Aziraphale, who only applied it in earnest during the Renaissance.

The Renaissance had been an interesting time for everyone, whether human, demonic, or celestial. And Crowley had looked so good in hose. He huffed.

Crowley could never see this experiment with human... was “pleasures” the right word to apply to tattooing? Aziraphale thought so.

It simply wouldn't end well. It would give Crowley entirely the wrong idea and Aziraphale was afraid to discover if he would scoff or… take, admitted Aziraphale with a mental sigh that became a physically expressed one.

If Crowley were to take, Aziraphale would give whatever he could and then more than was advisable. But neither of them needed to have that brought into the open air. It scared him. That attitude should have been reserved for God Herself, and it decidedly was not.

Contemplative, he let his hand rest on his left hip. The “indiscretion” was a delicately wrought large snake, an absolutely decadent expression of Art Nouveau lines transmuted into permanence on his own pale flesh. It wrapped from the side of his left hipbone to the middle of his thigh. He'd been drunk when he had it done. A woman in Leith had been traveling through with a circus and Aziraphale was enchanted by the lines that seemed to shimmer on her skin, even her face.

It was 1921. Warm — warm for Scotland — summer night a little like this one now.

The woman didn't seem to mind when he told her what he wanted and why he wanted it. And Aziraphale had told her everything. He'd missed Crowley, hadn't seen him for a decade or so. Was it something he'd said that kept Crowley away? He didn't know and hoped not.

The problem was, at least by the eighteenth century, they had grown used to seeing each other often. It seemed like one would merely summon or think the other into proximity. That was the best way Aziraphale could describe it. Only, it was easier than summoning anyone from Heaven had ever been.

At first, they’d kept it to every few centuries and often met under the circumstances of getting out of some sticky wicket.

But certainly by the 1900s, it was rare for them to go even a few years without contact... so 1921 felt a long way from 1911 to Aziraphale. Which was, of course, silly. Silly to miss someone like Crowley.

The tattooist beckoned him into her makeshift studio and then they began. Aziraphale stripped from the waist down. Her needle brought pain like the sun burning his skin for the first time after the fiasco in the Garden. He didn't miracle himself past feeling the needle. He let it be. Humans couldn’t get out of the pain. He wanted to experience it, too.

Aziraphale touched the snake’s head idly, thinking back to when it was fresh. He had performed a minor miracle for the healing part. There was no point in making himself uncomfortable for weeks. But when he woke up the morning after, it took him a few minutes to recall exactly what he'd done.

He had rather a shock in that unfamiliar rented room in a Leith townhouse.

He could have washed the snake from skin — like ink scraped from vellum, essentially — if he used another minor miracle. But his were starting to become gratuitous at this rate. He didn’t want to attract undue attention.

And it was in honor of Crowley, his demon, his best friend. He couldn't just demure his way out of the decision, no matter how drunk he'd been while committing to it.

The spirits he'd imbibed didn't put the thought in his head. It was already there. Crowley was already there like he always was. Maybe it had been time to admit that, even if it was only to himself.

Besides, the snake was a thing of beauty. He didn’t want to undo it.

Crowley hated his own. The tiny snake at his sideburn. He'd divulged that over dinner in 1905, offhandedly, like it didn't matter. But knowing Crowley and that tone, so calculatedly nonchalant, meant Aziraphale knew it did.

Aziraphale asked why Crowley didn't just change his own appearance if he wished — surely he could do the trick. “Or,” Aziraphale added, “Maybe I could do it?”

Crowley went quiet for long moments in the middle of Simpson’s over his own plate and finally said, “Neither would work, Angel, but thanks for caring.”

“It’s… Everlasting?”

That was rare. And insurmountable unless God — or maybe Satan in a demon’s case — chose to do something about it.

“Mmhm. It’s a badge of honor. I didn’t get a say. Can’t turn down an accolade in Hell unless you’re very stupid.”

“Pardon? You didn’t get a choice?” Aziraphale put down his fork with a gentle, tinkling clatter. You couldn’t exactly turn down an accolade in Heaven, either, but they also didn’t go around branding angels to convey the message of “Lovely job.”

“For being the first to tempt a human. Y’know. Maybe I did do the wrong thing, after all.”

“My dear, they… branded you? You can't shift it?”

“Yeah, well, you could put it like that.” Crowley’s smile was sharp, all teeth. “Hastur told me he’d kill to have it, so I suppose I’ve got that going for me. What an endorsement.” He gulped down some Bordeaux. “‘Course, he didn’t say who he would kill for it, but I am assuming he’d kill me.”

Aziraphale was silent. He’d always thought Crowley just embraced casual tattoos, which seemed so very Earthly, in the same way he'd gone in for dangerous fireworks and strange gadgetry and hallucinogenic absinthe. Not that Aziraphale let Crowley around absinthe if he could help it.

It seemed like something Crowley would do — get a cheeky little snake, a nod to that time so long ago when he might or might not have done the wrong thing.

To suddenly understand that the mark was forced upon him made Aziraphale ache. Even demons should have room for free will. Consent.

He knew he hadn’t kept the shock out of his face when Crowley said, “Oh, chin up, Aziraphale — I ordered you a treacle sponge and a hot chocolate while you visited the toilet. Why do you use toilets, anyway? Never mind, don’t answer. Same reason we do this, innit?”

He waved his hand at the glorious restaurant full of diners in their finest, eyes glinting amber over his dark sunglasses for the merest second before he pushed the glasses back where they should be.

Still working through whether he felt more pity or anger — anger, he decided; he would go to Hell himself if it meant he could protect Crowley — Aziraphale managed to say, “Ah… Crowley, you didn’t have to do that.”

Then Crowley gave him a real smile. “I know, but you like it.”

He did like it.

It was the first time Aziraphale had been to Simpson’s-in-the-Strand in years. Before then, he’d been in while it was still the Grand Cigar Divan. Crowley preferred Simpson’s in that older incarnation. Aziraphale suspected that was because of the chess and, well, cigars. The Grand Cigar Divan eventually became Simpson’s Grand Divan Tavern.

But after an argument with Disraeli — which started because Crowley loudly mimicked deaf, old Wellesley going, “Who? Who?” within earshot of those who were regrettably not hard of hearing — neither angel nor demon returned until 1905, when Simpson’s was finally called Simpson's-in-the-Strand, Grand Divan Tavern.

Still, Aziraphale had wiped Disraeli’s mind of a disastrous ten minutes. Just to be safe. Even the aged Duke of Wellington hadn't been exempt from Crowley’s penchant for mockery. It had been quite an offensive thing to everyone there.

And the number of names Simpson’s had had was somewhat exhausting for the human press and public to keep up with. But for Crowley and Aziraphale, knowing and amending several different names for the same thing came easily. It was part of the territory of their own multitudinous natures. Names changed or were added to. That was that.

Mine hasn’t, thought Aziraphale. My, he was nostalgic this evening. He turned from the mirror and rifled through his wardrobe. Not like Crawly to Crowley, at any rate.

“Aziraphale?”

He froze. There was some shuffling downstairs. Crowley only made noise when he chose to, and he was choosing to. He didn’t need to use doors, or keys for doors, and generally wouldn’t unless he was in mixed — human — company. Must have let himself in without the doors at all.

Heavens above, had they agreed to meet?

Books held little interest for Crowley, so soon enough, his tread was in the private back room and carrying through to the stairs.

Aziraphale was still frozen, trying to remember what it was he’d forgotten.

“Pity’s sake, Angel, it’s hot up here. I know where I’m from and all, but would it discorporate you to get a window unit?” Crowley’s footsteps and voice reached the landing. “You even in? Huh. Smells like some bloody Penhaligon’s shop. Buy a new candle, did you?”

Oh, bother. Those ice creams that come in the fish cones.

That was it. He’d seen a human child with one on the street and, immediately taken with the adorable treat, asked Crowley if he’d seen or had such a thing.

Crowley said he hadn’t. They’d agreed to meet in the shop on Friday at seven, this Friday, to find one together.

Aziraphale found his voice. “I think it smells quite nice, actually. It’s not a candle, it’s a bath oil.”

“What the Heaven is it meant to smell like? You’ve managed to scent your whole flat.”

“Erm… you do understand it’s not like yours? It’s not a big flat. Anything makes it smell. And… I don’t know, exactly… it's called Lavandula. Do you like it?”

Another few precious seconds and he’d be in the bedroom. The thought both titillated and terrified.

At a loss, Aziraphale looked around for his dressing gown. It was one of his favorite things, an old number from 1895 if he recalled correctly, all cotton paisley in yellows and golds. It was draped over a brown wingback chair.

Triumphantly, he grabbed it and threw it on just in time. Crowley’s head appeared around the door. His auburn hair was less styled today and his sunglasses were in his shirt pocket.

“Yes. It’s nice. Just strong. I'll get used to it.” Nonplussed, eyes raking along Aziraphale’s dressing gown, he said, “Are you going out like that?”

Aziraphale mustered all the dignity he could. He was still tying the gown. “No. You simply caught me just out of the bath.”

“Huh. Oh! I've meant to ask — does it turn to Holy Water when you bathe?”

“What? No. Not automatically. Otherwise, when you'd wanted your, erm, insurance all those years ago, it would have been easier to procure it.”

“Ah, we both know you were just prevaricating. You could have blessed a puddle for me. You just didn't want to go too fast.”

Abruptly, he turned from the bedroom and went across the tiny hallway to the bathroom. Aziraphale blinked after him.

There was a little splash.

A few steps into the hall, Aziraphale said, “What on Earth are you doing?”

Crowley returned with his right hand dripping. They both watched the droplets hit the aged wooden floor.

“Best get your drains looked after because there's a lot of water left in there.”

“You stuck your hand into my used bath water. Why? We’re well past the Victorian era.”

“Victorian era around here meant cholera in the water, not bits of angel.”

“Really, Crowley,” said Aziraphale through a reluctant laugh. “That might still be too soon.”

“I wanted to see something. I was curious about it.”

“What?”

Crowley lifted his hand, which on closer inspection seemed to be steaming the slightest bit — almost so little that it could have been a trick of the light.

“My word,” said Aziraphale, eyes going wide. “But it doesn’t become Holy by virtue of me being in it. Are you hurt?”

“Think it might just get contaminated,” Crowley said, shrugging as though Holy Water couldn't exterminate him forever. “Doesn't hurt. Doesn't burn. Feels nice. Like... champagne bubbles tickling your nose as you tip the glass.”

“No, I mean... are you... damaged?”

“No. Not at all. You know how the humans use those acids on their skin because they think it will make them more attractive?”

“Chemical exfoliants?”

“Yeah, those are the ones. Maybe it's like that for me. Maybe it's doing wonders for my skin. No idea.”

Crowley reached out and dried his hand on an edge of Aziraphale's dressing gown.

Aziraphale tried not to watch his fingers. Or grab his hand. “What time is it?”

Crowley brought his hand back to his own side.

“Quarter past seven. How can you have forgotten about the miraculous fishy ice creams, eh?”

“I did not forget.”

He went back into his bedroom and Crowley followed.

Drat.

“Did too.” Crowley beamed at him, which always did things to his anatomy. Made his knees wobble, his mouth go dry, his… Aziraphale ran a hand through his hair, struggling to keep his composure.

“Didn't.”

Crowley smirked, but mercifully let it drop. “This room’s always felt very cozy. Like the green walls, too. And is that a new duvet?”

Inwardly, Aziraphale was chuffed. He didn't need to sleep. He didn't even need a bed. But he so loved the ability to keep his own space and decorate it just so. Since the building was old by human standards — he'd bought it for a song off an old man who died a week later of dropsy — everything was quite tiny. But it suited him. He'd spent the years since then accruing things he wanted to be there.

The bed was a narrow, Tudor fourposter, and the chair was a wingback from one of the now-shuttered clubs on Great Portland Street. The wardrobe was a find from the side of the road, and the dressing table had actually come from a brothel that closed down in the 1830s. He'd done the madam a favor. She'd also given him the mirror in the corner.

“It feels cozy because it's so small. There's a reason why we usually keep to the ground floor.” Grumbling, Aziraphale wondered why God had let him forget about this particular event in this particular manner and allowed this particular demon into the very place that was supposed to be his most private.

“You forgot,” said Crowley. “I love it when you forget. Makes me feel less incompetent.”

“You’re not incompetent. But yes, I did. I’m sorry, Crowley.”

“No apologies necessary — just get dressed and off we’ll pop. I did some sleuthing online and the best place isn’t at all far.”

Crowley sat in the wingback chair expectantly. His eyes caught the gloaming light like they were made of stained glass.

He hadn’t always kept them hidden in public. That had started around the time humans invented sunglasses, which also seemed to be when they became more suspicious of his eyes. Aziraphale thought it was a shame, as they were quite extraordinary. Like a snake’s, yes, but reminiscent of a glass of brandy in candlelight.

“Lovely,” said Aziraphale. “And convenient.” He raised his eyebrows, waiting.

“What?”

Spluttering, Aziraphale shook his head. “What do you mean, ‘What?’”

“Get dressed. Why aren't you? I'm liking the new look, but it's a bit... bohemian. Bit too Romantic for present day.”

Aziraphale gaped at him. In times past he would have dressed via miracle, but after receiving a few passive aggressive notes from Gabriel, he refrained. Then he grew to discover that he quite liked the ritual of dressing as a human did. But he wasn’t about to do it in front of Crowley.

“With you just… sitting there?”

“I don’t see what the matter with that is, Angel.”

God forgive Crowley. As Aziraphale studied him, he saw that he really didn’t see. To be fair, there shouldn’t be anything wrong with it, unless they were considering things in the wider sense of there being everything wrong with his and Crowley’s friendship.

Aziraphale was the one making a pig’s ear out of things and it put him out. Poor Crowley had just managed to find the ice cream and remember their plan.

“There shouldn’t be a ‘matter’ at all. You're right. Fine. Stay there.”

He turned away from Crowley and started to search through his wardrobe again, pushing clothes apart with little care for them. Bit dangerous, as so many of his garments were old. Something could rip.

“Get a poison pen letter from on high, today?”

“No.”

“Why are you in a strop?”

“I am not in a strop.”

But Aziraphale knew he was in a strop.

“Yeah, you are.”

“I haven’t eaten since breakfast.”

“That’s an excuse only humans can use. We haven’t got to eat, us. You just like to. What’s on your mind?”

Perceptive as ever, Crowley was.

“You don’t… I was just… thinking about the past.” Aziraphale lingered on a lightweight cotton shirt that would do nicely in this heat. It paired very well with a beige seersucker jacket that he was fond of for the summers.

“This doesn’t seem like that sort of strop.”

It wasn’t. Not quite.

“Crowley… this is your last chance to turn around. Or close your eyes. I seem to remember you like that chair, so I don’t expect you to get up.”

Aziraphale couldn’t disguise the desperation he felt, so he didn’t bother. He knew Crowley would feel it roiling through the air like ripples in water.

Sure enough, he must have. “Angel,” he said in a gentle, soothing voice Aziraphale didn’t recognize — which was saying something. He knew all of Crowley’s moods. Or thought he did. What the Devil was this one? “You're being a prude.”

Aziraphale spun around. “I’m not a prude. Don’t be ridiculous.”

“You kinda are. I’ve already seen it all.”

The way he said it left no doubt that he meant specifically “all” of Aziraphale, not “all” in a worldweary, jaded manner of speaking.

“I beg your pardon? You… you have not. Not all of me. Not even most of me. Oh...” Feeling a breeze, Aziraphale looked down at himself. The dressing gown hadn’t stayed tied. He rubbed his face and didn’t bother to replace the fabric.

“Except for right now, of course.”

“Yes, thank you... but apart from this. You have not.

Crowley sat with his long legs over one arm of the chair and the back of his head resting against the other, staring right at him. Pupils dilated.

Aziraphale swallowed. He wasn't naive. While they weren't bound by biology, they still kept up appearances while on Earth. Mostly. It was part of the job description. For goodness... is he... actually... interested?

“I have so.”

“Crowley. Don't be tiresome. How? When?”

He put his hands on both hips, heedless of the drifting paisley, making sure it only really covered more of his left side. He wasn't willing to have the “indiscretion” talk, yet.

But Crowley thought he was so above it all, or below it all, and Aziraphale refused not to meet him toe to toe. I’m not a prude.

“I should think the ‘how’ would be obvious. I'm a demon. I tempt. That's how. As to when...” Crowley thought. “1910? No. 1911. Didn't see you for a bit, after that. Couldn't.”

Aziraphale started. 1911? No. “Where?” He sat on his bed, mouth agape. He couldn't fathom any of this. He couldn't remember any of it, either. If it had happened at all.

“Here. In the room. The only other time I've come into it. I did start off in the chair, though, so something stuck with you.”

Before thinking logically about whether or not Crowley was referring to a real event — not just causing chaos because he was bored — Aziraphale asked, “Was it a trick?” Yet his entire being, as it always did, urged him to believe Crowley. He regretted asking immediately but couldn't take back the words.

“How do you mean?”

“If it really happened.” Faltering at the sudden fury in Crowley’s eyes, he still persisted. “Did you... coerce. Me.”

But he knew Crowley wouldn't.

Trusted that he wouldn't.

“God — Satan — oh, whoever. No. I wouldn’t.” Crowley maneuvered himself into a more normal sitting position, all but spitting as he leaned onto his knees and glared. “Aziraphale, that's actually... offensive. This happened. I'm not telling tales. And you wanted it like I did.”

Aziraphale nodded, feeling his cheeks go hot. “I know. Well. That you'd never.”

“Know that, and know there were no lies. Nothing dubious.”

Head spinning, Aziraphale wanted to touch him, to pat his shoulder or his hand. But he found he couldn't move.

“We... we wanted it?”

“Yes, Angel. You gave to me and I to you. One night. Springtime.” Crowley lifted his right index finger, then let it fall.

“I shouldn't have asked.” I would give all to you, Crowley. He’d just been thinking about it, hadn't he? Uncanny.

Perhaps that was why this was finally coming to light.

“No, you shouldn't have. There are a lot of things I will do. Would do. Have done. I wouldn't ever do that to anyone, much less you.”

“I'm sorry. I just... you have to admit this is a very strange conversation.”

“Oh, that it is. But what I took was offered. Freely. Don't worry.”

“I don't remember anything about it.”

“I know you don’t remember.”

Aziraphale tried to relax, sound contrite. “I know you've been in my room... at least the once, but we didn't... we were not...” he couldn't say “have sex” without actually also climbing into Crowley’s lap on the chair, which probably couldn't hold both of them, so he settled on, “We weren't intimate.”

“We were.”

“Why... why tell me?” Trying to understand, Aziraphale watched Crowley, who was now looking at the skylight, a more contemporary addition to the flat, which was angled open to the sky. “Why would you tell me that we have been. Why tell me now and why... just... why?”

“I don't want to keep it to myself. Satan knows I should have for the sake of smooth sailing. But I don't want to, anymore.”

Crowley could be changeable. So Aziraphale did accept that at face value, at least.

But he also sounded lost. And lonely.

Speechless for ten consecutive seconds, Aziraphale then said with a certainty that he did not feel, “I think I would remember.”

“Eh… would you, though?”

“You’re teasing me. Crowley, don't be...” deflating, he ended with, “Cruel.”

“I’m not. I wouldn't about something so important.”

“Important?”

Aziraphale peered at him and Crowley stopped looking at the sky to meet his eyes. There was a wistful expression on his face that, more than anything else, said he was actually telling the truth.

“Yes.”

“I'd no idea you felt that way about... anyone.”

That was a lie. He'd often wondered if Crowley felt that way about him.

“None?”

“Maybe a little.”

Crowley let go of a long sigh. “Well. Good.”

“It's so ill-advised. Possibly the most verboten thing.”

“Don't be daft. Some of us on both sides once slept with humans. I still know working succubi and incubi. One of them asked me if you were one on stealth mode — they're based in Soho.”

“Yes. No! I know a few of my lot go for humans, as well. I personally don't think it's very ethical. But... angels with demons?”

“Same stock.”

“That was a long time ago.” Aziraphale motioned to himself before burying his face in his hands. “But you mean. Me. And you.”

He wanted to remember.

He didn't want to remember.

No, he did.

“Just... take a deep breath and trust me. Please. I can undo it.”

Aziraphale gave a little groan through his fingers, but tilted his head back up so that he could look at Crowley. It was rare that he said “please,” and back was the alien — for Crowley — note of sadness. “Undo? Undo what?”

“I hid it from you.”

“That doesn't seem —“

“Let me show you. I can show you some of it, at least. Maybe not… the memories themselves.”

Crowley sounded so desolate that Aziraphale almost didn't care what had transpired.

We could do it again. We could make new memories. Right now.

He was already basically naked.

But dash it all, it wasn't so simple. And he wanted to know.

Wanted to know what had his suave, exuberant Crowley sounding like the grave.

“All right.”

Aziraphale inhaled, another thing neither of them had to do, but both had grown to like. Breathing was grounding, somehow. He counted to five inside his head and exhaled. He had no idea what “it” was. What there was to undo.

Meanwhile, Crowley started to glow. Not like an angel would, white and blinding. More like a dying ember.

“Crowley, what —“

Crowley shushed him.

Then Aziraphale could sense it. Like a locked door was opened. “Telepathy” was such a vague and inaccurate word. Still, as he honed in on Crowley, he could feel... it. Whatever had happened here in 1911. But it had involved love, which made no sense at all. Crowley could be loyal, but by definition “love” posed more of a problem for him.

Doesn’t it? But that's not all mine. Good Lord, it was imprinted in the walls, the furniture. The air. I must be a fool. How can I not have noticed it?

“Now. Even if you don't recall... what do you feel?

Aziraphale had to shut his eyes, both because he was adjusting to the sensations and he couldn't look at Crowley anymore. He fell back on the bed. This was much more intense than any human traces he’d ever sensed, but that wasn't surprising.

They were more intense than humans in many ways.

“Desire. Anticipation. Resolution. Love. Exquisite, but... indescribable.” He snorted. “Remind me never to invite Gabriel upstairs when he comes round for his little check-ins.”

Crowley uttered a dismissive, garbled noise. “That wanker.”

“I don't disagree. But who knows where they'd lock us up, and I don't think it would be together.” Aziraphale lifted his eyebrows. “How can there be that much love, Crowley? It's beautiful.”

“I don't know. I moved on from confusion to acceptance a long time ago, and hoped none of the others would notice I was any different.”

“Well, jolly good. Because it's not just mine. I would know.” A corner of his mouth turned up in half a smile, his eyes still closed.

“Hush. It isn't funny.”

“Not funny,” agreed Aziraphale. “Unruffle your feathers. I'm smiling because I'm... it makes me... happy.”

He thought, not for the first time, that Crowley could be more “good” than anyone assumed.

“Does it make you feel anything else?”

“You're not subtle. Yes. It does.”

He wanted to shout, Sod the fish ice cream cones, come here and lick me before I decide this is all too much!

He refrained.

Apparently it had taken Crowley himself, sitting there like a sentient lodestone, to activate and attract these left impressions. He must be letting them filter through to Aziraphale at last.

Well — 6,000 years of knowing someone and there could still be a surprise thrown into the mix. Crowley, it seemed, could shield him from accessing certain... what? Memories? Feelings? More powerful angels could do it, so why couldn't their demon counterparts?

“I could describe it to you. In detail.”

“You were always better with words than me. But you'd have to be, wouldn't you? Wily serpent and all.”

Chuckling, Crowley said, “I’m... pretty sure we caused a meteor shower. I don't know what else would have done it. There wasn't one scheduled by either side. Or listed in the humans’ almanacs. I checked.”

“How’d we cause it?”

“I don't know. But I can guess. Maybe it's something to do with the way celestials orgasm. Or the way... I... because you...” Aziraphale heard the contemplative smile in his voice before it trailed off into nothing.

Without thinking, he told Crowley, “No, I can safely say it isn't just how we orgasm. I've never caused a meteor shower on my own. Under my own steam, as it were.”

“On your own?”

“Don't sound so piqued.” Aziraphale blushed. He didn't think he'd ever said “orgasm” aloud, and he had not told anyone about his... hobby.

“How can I not be piqued? I told you we've had sex. Now you've just admitted to sullying your temple.”

There it was, the dangerous had sex. Aziraphale kept down a moan, or attempted to. If Crowley didn't saunter already, he would indubitably saunter now. Cocky devil.

“I've been down here a long time.”

“Funny enough, I knew that.”

“I became curious. It's such an odd appendage.”

Odd isn't the only word I'd choose, and it's not one that I'd apply to yours, but sure.”

“Crowley, please.”

“Anything for you, Angel.”

Aziraphale grabbed at the duvet. He didn't remember what had transpired, but that didn't mean he couldn't put two and two together to make four. “Now you are teasing.”

“Without a doubt.”

“Why?”

“You liked being teased.”

He liked it now, too. “I... oh, never mind.” What do you like, Crowley?

“Think of anyone in particular while you indulge your curiosity?

I give up.

“You don't even need to ask, my dear.”

“Aziraphale...” the longing in Crowley’s voice was unmistakable, then he reined it in before Aziraphale could thrill to it. “There's no precedent, is there?”

“For?”

“Fraternizing. That's what they’d call it.”

Wanting him to sound happy instead of growling, Aziraphale said, “Well. Forget that. Them. Let’s say we did. Make a meteor shower. For the sake of argument. But also, for the record, I entirely believe we could. Was it pretty?”

There was no precedent. That he knew of. And an angel contained or was comprised of vast expanses of energy. The same was true of demons. God only knew what might happen if two, ah, joined forces. Sought pleasure with each other.

“Best one I've seen.”

“That's high praise.”

“You and me, we went on your roof to watch. Didn't think we could fit up there but it's actually quite big. Stable. We went up after, ah... well, fucking. A lot.” Crowley cleared his throat. “I've gone native and my lot don’t have the thing with cursing, sorry.”

“I don't mind.”

“Good. Because I haven't ever forgotten. And it was some first-rate fu—“

“Wait.” Aziraphale’s voice trembled minutely. “I’m afraid I'm somewhat...” He sat up and opened his eyes. The dressing gown fell a bit from his shoulders. Crowley wasn't glowing, now. He was his normal self, all shadows and angles.

“Yeah?”

“Why don't I remember?”

Crowley wiggled in the chair and somehow looked smaller. He broke eye contact.

“You didn't want to.”

“And so you... even veiled all of the...” Aziraphale waved his hand weakly to indicate the imprints that now flooded his room. “From me.”

“Yes.”

Chapter Text

The Savoy had one of Crowley's favorite facades in London, if for purely sentimental reasons. 

Because it was his favorite and it was sentimental, he avoided it. The Savoy was the site of the tea after which they returned to the very best bookshop in the universe — in Crowley’s opinion, though he hadn't seen that many bookshops — and, in the flat above that shop, came to know each other in the most Biblical sense. 

The most Biblical, lyrical, physical and — if it didn't make him sound absolutely out of his skull — spiritual sense. 

But what other way was there to describe spectacular sex with an angel? Besides spiritual. Crowley took the Lord’s name in vain all the time and he should have paid more reverence to Satan. But Aziraphale’s name was the only word he'd uttered like a prayer in thousands of years.

'Course, he didn't know if it counted as “prayerful” if he’d been riding the angel like a wild unicorn at the time. On the one hand, he was paying respect to an angel. On the other hand, he was defiling an angel. It wasn't until much, much later that Crowley discovered the meaning of “power bottom,” but he was convinced Aziraphale had something to do with inventing both the term and the concept. 

Crowley couldn't prefer the Ritz, though Aziraphale did. 

Something about the Ritz spoke to him, he told Crowley. More than once. Every unholy time, Crowley wanted to stomp his feet and howl that something about the Savoy should speak to him, too. It should have been speaking epic monologues.

Since Crowley was mildly certain that setting foot in the Savoy would cause him more physical agony than stepping onto consecrated ground, he didn't scream anything of the kind. Aziraphale was game for any gourmand adventure, and it would be just like him to graciously suggest the Savoy instead of the Ritz if Crowley voiced a preference. 

Or screeched one.

They hadn't discreetly touched hands under the table or kissed in an alcove before heading back to Soho that evening. Nothing so gauche. There had been something different about the meal, the ritual of taking tea. Maybe it was different because for once, Crowley had actually eaten something. 

Smoked salmon tea sandwich. Haven't eaten fish since 1911.

It still hadn't mattered. After all was said and done, Aziraphale pleaded with him about — 

Even as he walked, Crowley bit his lip none too gently. He could recall everything about that early, early morning, but that, without breaking his poker face. 

You went Thoreau after. Full Thoreau. But evil.

May 1911 was when Crowley had gone to Alaska with no notice, lived in the wilderness for as long as he could bear being away from the city, and amused himself by making all the salmon he could find far too big. Big enough that they were very easy to catch. Luckily, he encountered no fishermen where he was.

The bears, conversely, appeared to believe they’d died and gone to Heaven. 

Just like Crowley had believed on top of that bloody roof under the falling stars dappling the Prussian blue sky with silver.

Jesus Christ, he’d even tried being a bear himself because they seemed like they were having such a lark. Then, when he got bored of that — bored and sad, because it didn't help him forget Aziraphale — he posed for a few years as a false god. More lying and embellished memos to the office. 

Although, telling Lord Beelzebub that he was posing as a god to lure humans down the “wrong” path had scored him more points than whatever the fuck he'd said to cover up living as a mountain man, then a bear in Alaska. Which was a place too godforsaken even for him.

Being “Ullr” wasn't so bad. It was better than being the Demon Crowley who’d made the mistake of putting out for the Principality Aziraphale. More than once. With as much genital variety as human nature could feasibly afford him. There'd been a mountain of paperwork to explain all the form-shifting. Luckily, it wasn't as though every shift had been itemized. He doubted even he could explain a shift from cock to cunt without waxing poetic about what Aziraphale could do to both. Almost a full century later and Crowley was still trying to decide if he preferred clitoral or prostate orgasms. Then again, there’s always the g-spot.

That sort of elaboration would not have helped his case. 

Crowley only had to explain why he'd done so many changes in such a comparatively small measure of time. Now, not that it did him any good, he had free rein to shift into whatever or however he wanted without bureaucratic oversight. He was important. He had unlimited magic tricks up his sleeve. Not unlimited power, exactly.

Eventually he’d come to his senses. Sort of. Aziraphale's shop’s rooftop was not Heaven. It was only as close as he could get. And it was literally, entirely, and fully impossible for him to either die or reside in Heaven.

But the alternative, if it included lazing on a roof with Aziraphale in a warm, postcoital haze, was top notch. He'd never been one to join in Heavenly hullabaloo, anyway. 

He missed a lot of other things he couldn't have. Maybe. Possibly. He scowled and stopped himself from venturing down the odious line of missing. 

While he'd been on his Alaskan retreat and then his Nordic detour, it took a lot of work to convince Hell that he was still in London keeping an eye to Aziraphale, yet escaping Aziraphale’s notice while he did. Somehow, he’d managed to sell it to everyone. He was clever that way. 

Striding past the Savoy just wasn't something he did. It made him think too much about the past, a past he wanted. Though, he did like the Strand well enough. Lively stretch. Tonight was an exception to his rule. He was deep in contemplation, mulling over how odd things felt right now. Softer, slower, gentler. More forgiving.

No idea why. Couldn't have been because he was supposed to see his angel. They met up all the time this century and London always felt normal, full of bastards as ever, when they did. Tonight just didn't feel the same as all the others, the myriad of other nights he spent walking or driving in the city.

His feet took him past the Savoy before he could tell them to go another way. 

Some people thought it was haunted. It was for him — just not by ghosts. If they were sentient, which wasn't always the case, they were annoying, self-important creatures stuck between everywhere and nowhere. Afraid of moving forward because of what might be ahead. Crowley could sympathize with that, at least. And unlike demons or celestials, ghosts rarely took any notice of the impressions left around them.

The haunting Crowley experienced was different. If he ventured near the Savoy, Aziraphale’s laughter drifted into his ear and his hand rested on his arm. Time meant little. The sensations came like 1911 just occurred yesterday. It was, in a word, inconvenient. 

They came all the more loudly because he was the only one who let them echo. Aziraphale didn't. Or more precisely, Aziraphale did. He just didn't hear them. Picking up on that kind of shite had been a gift of Aziraphale's for as long as Crowley had known him.

But his soft angel had wanted them blunted. Partitioned, more like. Crowley often yearned to know if anything ever slipped through to Aziraphale’s consciousness. He caught himself watching, sometimes, for telltale signs that the echoes were leaking back into reality. 

There were flickering moments of recognition, he thought, that flew between him and Aziraphale like the humans’ beloved lightning bugs. Fireflies? But they weren't enough, and they always died quickly, squashed by Aziraphale’s nervous chuckle or his own rakish remark.

It hurt. It had been hard logistically and excruciating emotionally. He'd never tell Hell what he'd done because they'd have a field day. It was one thing to alter a human’s senses and memories. It was another to manage it on an angel. For all Crowley knew, he was the only demon who could do it.

Oh yes, he’d done it... helped his best friend forget what they'd shared. 

He would move the moon if Aziraphale asked, humanity be damned. It it ever came to that, he would figure out the rest as he went along. It was an incredibly disastrous loyalty to feel to anyone, and especially an angel.

It was the only loyalty he felt to anyone.

He wrinkled his nose and carried on, sparing the Savoy’s drive with all its expensive cars and well-dressed patrons only a glance. Even from here, he had to steel himself against it. The onslaught of past joy. Anticipation. Sighing, he told himself off. Mad to think of any of this. 

He looked left, then right on the crowded pavement. 

Fuck it, I'm taking the shortcut.

If anyone noticed at all, they probably thought they'd imagined the lanky, flame-haired figure melting from view. 

 


 

Once he was in Aziraphale’s bedroom again for the first time since The Immaculate Indiscretion, Crowley discovered that there was one place besides a church sanctuary or the Savoy that could bring him to his knees. It was this room. 

It was awash with memories of their debauchery — no, it wasn't debauchery at all, it was worship — to the point of full distraction. Made all the worse because he'd unlocked it. Let it bloom for Aziraphale, who absorbed it all with wonder.

The shop didn't feel this way because it was home to its own host of memories, none of which were so exquisitely erotic or emotionally charged. He tried to concentrate on their conversation, on Aziraphale, who frowned at him and asked, “How?”

“I don't know.”

“If you did it, you must know, dear.”

This was just like him. Nuts and bolts. Crowley knew what Aziraphale wanted, and Aziraphale knew what he himself wanted, but true to form... he was going to ask “how.” 

How had Crowley given him amnesia.

Crowley stared at Aziraphale’s shoulders, now exposed by that ludicrous dressing gown. 

He was catching Aziraphale’s thoughts all in a jumble. They were close, he knew that, but it always felt unbearably intimate when he did. This didn't always happen. It was as though the wind had to be blowing the right way while the sun was at the proper angle.

When he caught something about “lick me,” it took a supreme amount of willpower not to fling himself across the very small room and lick. It was all he could think about. “I don't want ice cream,” he blurted.

“I don't, either,” said Aziraphale.

“You sure?”

“Quite.” 

Hell below, there was nothing more enticing in the cosmos than his angel sitting on that unmade Tudor bed with rumpled blond hair, bath-softened skin, and a conflicted expression. Crowley was supposed to be a professional at temptation, but Aziraphale bested him at his job every time.

“What do you want?” Please say me, say me, say me.

“Can't you hear it?” Aziraphale smiled and ran a hand through his hair. “Do I have to say it if you can hear it?”

Crowley got up from the chair and approached Aziraphale slowly. There wasn't much of an approach to make, but he wouldn't have Aziraphale spooked. That never worked in his favor. “You don't have to say it, but it would be nice.”

“I can hear you.” Aziraphale looked up at him, the conflict in his face giving way to trust. “It hasn't been like this for a while.”

“No.”

“I missed it.” 

“So did I.”

Time seemed to be breathing slowly between them, and Crowley knew that this was why the evening had felt so different to him.

The difference’s epicenter was here. 

Tentatively, Crowley reached for Aziraphale’s shoulder. When he didn't scoot away, Crowley’s fingertips met with his skin. 

Crowley gave a quiet grunt of relish. It was like touching the tepid bath water. Gave that same low, electric satisfaction. He knew he could — if he wanted, and he did want, though he abstained — move his hand further up and back. Back to the base of where he knew Aziraphale’s wings began. 

On Earth, whether or not they were tangible depended on any number of factors. Like his own, they were veiled from perception in the vast majority of cases. Couldn't have people noticing giant wings. It wouldn't do.

If, say, Aziraphale was coming hard and fast into his mouth, Crowley could generally see or sense them, then. 

Loss of control. Euphoria. 

Both had their effects.

The hiding-of-the-wings was like the very mundane matter of a heartbeat — automatic until prompted to stop, skip, or start by internal or outside forces.

Aziraphale’s mouth fell open, prompting Crowley to chuckle because he looked so quizzical, so impossibly young. 

“That’s rather blue, isn't it?” Aziraphale asked, cheeks all pink.

“Oh, sorry, did I think that bit about the wings?” Crowley’s lips arched into a smile and he traced the line of Aziraphale’s neck with his index finger. His other hand wanted to be doing something, too, but he kept it in his pocket. 

They could go slow. He could go slow. He’d prove it. 

But Aziraphale, evidently, was impatient. No, the angel had decided something. He grabbed Crowley’s hand from his neck and pulled Crowley down by it, bodily, onto the bed with him. 

Abruptly, Crowley had what he'd been dreaming of for years and years: Aziraphale beneath him, dark green eyes gazing up at him, their bodies along one another from thigh to chest. Bed under both of them.

“You thought it loudly. I still have questions.”

“I may have answers.”

Aziraphale slipped his right hand between them and extracted Crowley’s sunglasses from the shirt pocket. “You said you couldn't see me for a bit. Do you realize that turned into a decade? Twelve years to be exact. I thought I'd done something to put you off.” He flung the glasses to his dressing table, where they landed with a light clatter.

He could have chucked them out the skylight and to Mars for all Crowley cared. He had dozens and dozens of sunglasses dating to the dawn of when they were made. 

“No, Angel.” 

“I must have done.” With a look of concern, Aziraphale reached upward and cupped his cheek. It almost did Crowley in. There was so much to the simple gesture. Tenderness, longing, reconciliation, trepidation. 

“It was more complex than that.”

“If you say so. I shall take you at your word.”

“I keep telling you to.”

“Your eyes are astounding,” said Aziraphale, peering into them. “I hate how you have to keep them obscured.”

Crowley could have let him look for eternity. “I forgive you for whatever you did. Water under the bridge.” Hardly daring to, but doing it anyway, he turned his head and pressed his lips to Aziraphale’s warm palm. “Positive you don't want ice cream?”

“Crowley.”

“Hm?”

“Do stop banging on about ice cream and kiss me.”

He did not have to be told twice. Crowley had heard of those humans who went off to war, went to space, went without kissing and contact with the person they loved for weeks or months or years. Their first kisses after being reunited could have nothing on this one. It was as inevitable as the sea moving at the moon’s urging.

Aziraphale’s lips were soft, opening to his without reservation. Crowley tried to start chaste. But “chaste” wasn't in his nature under the best of conditions, and if ever he was to be discorporated, he sent out a silent request that it be now. 

Fuck, he wanted everything all at once, and Aziraphale seemed willing to give it to him. He wouldn't dwell on how that had changed the last time. He wouldn't dwell on last time at all, until asked. Aziraphale’s tongue against his had him invested in nothing but this exact instant. 

It took him a few moments to notice Aziraphale’s hands roaming restlessly along his back, touching muscle and bone like they were completely irreplaceable materials. 

He gentled his kissing, just barely, until Aziraphale’s hands stopped at his waist, hovering on his belt.

“Take it off, darling.”

For a second, all Crowley could think was an emphatic yes. He stopped moving entirely, staring at Aziraphale.

Then Aziraphale laughed, kindly. “All of it, if you'd like. But largely, I mean the belt. It keeps digging into me.”

“Knew the buckle was a bad idea.” Reluctant to do so, he inched away and undid his belt, pulling it out of the loops. “It's a snake’s head. Not a real one."

“I'd noticed.”

“Blame Yves Saint Laurent for your discomfort.”

Aziraphale hummed. “How very interesting to know the designer of your clever accoutrement.” He propped himself up on one elbow, watching as Crowley dropped his belt to the floor. “However, I don’t care a whit about it.” His dressing gown pooled at his waist, now. 

Crowley, gone quiet, scanned his perfect flesh from throat to navel. Even better, Aziraphale let him look, an unrepentant gleam in his eyes. 

“I like how you look at me, dear one.”

“How do I look at you?” Crowley's words were just above a whisper. 

Dear one. He wasn't about to tell Aziraphale to stop using sweet words. But he was half-hard in his jeans already. Arousal was one aspect of Earthly biomechanics that he quite liked, and no one could instigate his like Aziraphale. When he'd confirmed that he fucked himself to the thought of Crowley, Crowley had just about melted into a puddle and trickled off the wingback chair to slip through the old floorboards. 

He hadn't expected this level of boldness, so if they'd gone out according to plan — he was quite prepared to walk through Soho ignoring his lust and trying not to appear lovesick as he looked at Aziraphale. 

Or piqued as he looked at Aziraphale tonguing ice cream.

“Like I'm God.” Aziraphale smirked and pulled at Crowley’s t-shirt until they were nose-to-nose. “You look at me like I’m Divine.”

Crowley couldn't articulate anything past a desperate whine. Aziraphale nuzzled down with the tip of his nose, stopping at the side of Crowley’s neck, and left a kiss right where neck met shoulder.

“Am I your God, then?”

That got Crowley to cry out. “Yes, Angel, I rather believe you are.”

“Come now. No half-measures. They don’t suit you. Am I, or am I not?” 

The kissing turned to a light brush of teeth. Then more teeth.

“You are.” 

Crowley finally relaxed into the duvet as Aziraphale straddled him at the waist. Sometimes he forgot that this had been an angel set to guard a Gate, then set to guard against him on Earth. Even if he was kind, was sweet, he was utterly capable of taking control. Aziraphale had defied the Almighty without qualms to protect a woman and her unborn child. He’d defied God and lied about it. Even if that lie was meant to accomplish a “good” thing. Then he'd told a demon he'd just met all about it.

He was unbearably tantalizing. A wonderful conundrum.

Without looking away from Aziraphale’s face, Crowley brought both of his hands to the tops of Aziraphale’s thighs. He stroked at them through the cotton. 

“You... we can wait. We can wait until we've spoken.”

“I know.”

“You don't seem interested in waiting.”

“Well spotted.”

“Aziraphale... I'll tell you... whatever you ask. If I can. I don't understand all of it.”

“You can tell me after this.”

“For all intents and purposes, this is your first go with me — even though it isn’t. Does that not bother you?” 

There was little that Crowley wanted more than to wrench away the dressing gown and reveal what it hid. He remembered it well. 

But he’d not have Aziraphale do something he regretted. 

Still a bit odd, that feeling of consideration — he’s probably the only one I feel any scruples about tempting.  

In answer, Aziraphale took Crowley’s face in both of his hands and kissed him deeply. “It concerns me. It does not bother me enough to stop what I’m doing.”

“I would keep it in my pants if you wanted.”

“I know you would do whatever I wanted. That is what concerns me. You’d do it to your own detriment.”

Crowley attempted to muster chagrin. He tried and failed to bristle. He mumbled, “Yeah, maybe.” Aziraphale had him well sussed out. 

“Let me make you feel good.”

An affirmative slipped away from him before he could think rationally. “Yes.” Nodding, rising up to kiss him, he repeated, “Yes.” Even if he’d said “no,” he knew every speck of energy within him cried the opposite. 

Beaming, Aziraphale untucked Crowley's t-shirt, then made fast work of his waistcoat. 

“Takes too long,” said Crowley. Why did I wear so many layers? 

“Pardon?”

He sent all of his own clothes... somewhere... and suddenly Aziraphale found himself atop one nude demon. 

“That’s handy,” he said, rutting just barely into Crowley’s thigh, revealing how hard he was, himself.

Fuck, Angel. You’ll be the death of me.”

“You can’t die.” Aziraphale sounded smug. 

Shut up. Crowley went weak when he was smug. He loved it.

“And I thought you had to meter out your... magic, as it were.” Aziraphale’s fingers were somehow resting, now, on the base of Crowley’s prick, his thumb on the inside of his thigh. 

This made it vexing to try and concentrate. 

“Oh...”

“Do I need to worry about any impromptu visitors checking up on you? I don’t think they can break through, but then, I’ve never had anyone try. You’re allowed. Your compatriots are not.”

“They gave me loads of leave for minor miracles. Well, minor demonic miracles. Interventions. I’ll admit I didn’t really see the point until now.”

“Pity, I rather enjoy the undressing part.”

Jealousy flared in Crowley’s chest. “Who the Heaven have you been undressing?”

Aziraphale brought a hand to Crowley’s throat and pushed him back. “Jealous, are you?”

With a glare, Crowley managed to say, “No…” He adored it, all of it, the feel of Aziraphale’s fingers on his neck, the weight of him on his waist. 

But he also had to know. Then kill whoever it was. Did Aziraphale go in for humans? Wait. He'd said it wasn't ethical to him. 

“I am perfectly free to do as I wish, you foul beast.”

That told Crowley that Aziraphale had, in fact, not slept with anyone. 

He couldn’t help grinning. 

Aziraphale winked at him. Then studied him with unbridled interest.

“Like what you see?” rasped Crowley.

“What a question.” Releasing his grip on Crowley’s throat, Aziraphale stroked his hair instead. “I could look at you forever. But luckily for both of us, I want to do more than that.” 

He smiled, positively devilish for an angel, and shifted some of his weight so that he could lick Crowley’s neck with the tip of his tongue. The effect was instantaneous; Crowley wrenched his eyes closed and arched up between Aziraphale’s legs. He had a distinct sense of parting from reality as he knew it and scrabbled at the dressing gown for purchase.

“Why is this thing still… hanging about?”

Aziraphale wound his fingers into Crowley’s hair, then answered, “Was concentrating more on you, if I’m being honest.” He pulled, first with only little force, then incrementally more.

“I'll ruin it, if I'm not careful.”

“You'd love to.”

Writhing, Crowley leaned his head back so that there was even more pressure between hair and fingers. “It’s superfluous.”

“Absolutely.”

Without asking, Crowley got rid of the dressing gown, too. He thought he sent it wherever his own clothes had gone. There’d been an idle intent of sending them to his flat, but he wasn’t completely sure if things had worked out that way. Everything was probably somewhere in Doha.

Now they weren’t separated by anything. Even Aziraphale, who’d seemed so intent on ravishing him, faltered. 

Crowley opened his eyes, of the mind that this was an important threshold they were crossing. He wanted to see it.

The look on Aziraphale's face was hard to read. 

Crowley’s raw need was eclipsed by nagging worry.

“What’s the matter?” Concerned, Crowley took both of Aziraphale’s hands, untangling the right from his hair. “We don't have to...”

He’d waited this long. He could wait another aeon if necessary.

“No, it isn't that.”

It had fallen dark, but not so dark that they couldn't see each other. Aziraphale always seemed to take even the smallest amount of light and refract it gently, like an opal. 

Ah, Angel, you’ve tipped your hand.  

Aziraphale glimmered above him in the semidarkness, and Crowley’s eyes traveled up his wings, which had made their appearance. They weren't structurally different from his own. But they were, of course, white, giving off the same quiet glow as Aziraphale’s body. Or the illusion of a glow. Crowley was unsure if it was “real.” Mortals did not seem to notice.

Aziraphale must be feeling very safe or abstracted... maybe both... if his wings were showing. He wasn't blissed out, yet. It had to be something else.

Did he even realize? 

“Aziraphale, you beauty,” murmured Crowley. “You mad miracle.”

Aziraphale smiled tentatively. “Is that blaspheming, for you?”

“I'm allowed to say ‘miracle.’”

“Ah, well...”

“You are breathtaking in the dark like this.”

“Am I? I should think it wasn't my best color.”

“It offsets you so well.”

Crowley let go of Aziraphale’s right hand, reached up, and grazed a stiff, pearlescent feather with reverence. It zapped him more than Aziraphale’s skin and definitely more than his bath water, but he didn't mind. 

Touching his wings felt more like a promise than a threat. Crowley hadn’t touched them the last time they’d been together in this bed. He'd been too afraid.

Aziraphale’s head lolled back like he was a cat enjoying its chin being stroked. Crowley watched his face, enthralled, petting along one feather, then another. It felt good to him, that much was evident.

“I've never touched them. I didn't know if I could.”

“Oh, bugger.” Aziraphale jumped, straightened his back... and you would have thought he'd just given into some compulsion to shit on the floor of the Ritz in front of everyone.

“You don’t have to —“ 

“Terribly sorry.” 

“No,” said Crowley, but the wings were shielded from him in an instant and Aziraphale's grasp at self-composure was like a slap — and not the good kind. “No, no... Angel, no. It's not a problem. They’re lovely, truly lovely. You’re lovely. You don't have to keep them from me. There’s not anything vulgar about it. I've seen them. Seen ‘em on the Wall and seen ‘em in this very room, eh?”

Fuck, it's happening again, isn't it?

Aziraphale shook his head and Crowley waited for him to get up. He didn't. Instead, he draped himself over Crowley’s body. 

Cautiously, Crowley stroked his back. “Are you all right?”

As he held him, Crowley felt Aziraphale calm. That was something.

“I'm embarrassed.”

“Why?” Embarrassed? There’s nothing to be ashamed of, my love.

“I ache, Crowley.” He paused. “I... desire. I don't know if I'm made for it.”

“For what it's worth, I don't know if what we’re made for matters anymore,” Crowley said into his hair.

“If it doesn't, what's the point?”

“Mm... let's see... ice cream cones that look like fish. Good wine.” Crowley kissed the top of his head. “Musty old books. Desire, itself. Take your pick, my love.” He winced, not having wanted to say the endearment aloud. “Ah... my... lovely... Angel.” 

It wasn't even a save. Lamely, he stopped. For some reason, if Aziraphale caught him thinking “my love,” it felt less exposed.

Aziraphale untucked his head from the side of Crowley’s neck and looked at him hopefully. 

“It could be. Those things could be the point.”

“Did something spook you? Just now?”

“No,” breathed Aziraphale. “Well, yes. Everything felt right and I suppose my guard was down.” He twitched his shoulders. “I don't know how it is for you down there but we never show our... not since...” he scoffed. “Eden, honestly.”

That sounded like Heaven. All rules and conformity and shame. 

“I don't think all of us still have wings.” Crowley resumed petting Aziraphale’s back, his side. “Anyway, there's not enough space to let them —“

“I'm sorry, Crowley.”

“What for?”

“I know you wanted —“

“Stop. Shut up,” said Crowley. He kissed Aziraphale’s forehead. “I’m not going to go too fast, this time. Whatever you need to sort with me, we can sort it. I want to fuck twelve ways to Sunday, but that doesn't mean I’m any less enamored with you.”

“Well, I want to fuck twelve ways to Sunday, too. Listen.” 

“Of course. Just don't keep saying ‘fuck,’ or I'll want to do it without listening.”

Aziraphale rolled off him carefully, so as not to fall off the bed, and Crowley felt bereft already. With a deep breath, Aziraphale snapped his fingers. Three taper candles’ wicks burst into flame. Where had he even managed to fit them?

Crowley craned his neck. Ah, the dressing table. Dainty brass thing that looked like it came out of a bordello. Matched the mirror. “Don’t you get in trouble for that?”

“I’ve been doing it every night for the last four years, so I assume I would know by now if I did. I do have some of my own oversight, you know.”

Not willing to miss an opportunity to see Aziraphale naked in better light, Crowley returned his attention to him. He was more solid than Crowley, who was thin as a rake, and his skin had a warmer hue with far fewer freckles. Crowley started to smile as he dared to look between Aziraphale’s thighs — oh yes, his cock was still prodigious — he seemingly hadn't changed a thing about his body for a century...

What in the flaming name of Lucifer?

Crowley’s budding smile fell from his lips. “Angel, what did you do?”

“Got a, erm, tattoo.”

“I see that.” 

Crowley couldn't help but surge forward and physically take Aziraphale’s left thigh in hand. 

Pliant, patient, quiet, Aziraphale let Crowley get up close and touch without giving a protest. On his skin was an impressive, immaculate example of early twentieth-century tattooing. It must have taken hours. Those hours would have been painful.

Crowley ran his hand from the top of the snake’s head to the end of its tail in a deferential caress. Aziraphale moaned, lips mostly closed, as though he was unwilling to startle Crowley.

Crowley could have told him that not even ten minutes ago, he wanted him to make enough noise that someone called the police on them. 

He just smiled at him, briefly, then resumed his inspection of the tattoo.

For an angel to bring themselves to orgasm took a certain willingness to experiment — and that didn't seem so very rebellious for one who’d been on Earth as long as Aziraphale. Yet tattooing was, so far as he could surmise and as Aziraphale had said earlier, a “verboten thing.” It was quite literally desecrating the temple. This was beautiful desecration in black ink, but it was desecration nonetheless. Crowley couldn't stand it. He had to do something. 

He kissed the snake, starting at the top — Aziraphale's hip.

Aziraphale gasped, and so did Crowley.

Crowley kept kissing, down to the tail, which was conveniently on the inside of Aziraphale's thigh. 

By the time Crowley was working his way back upward with his lips, he had one goal in mind and Aziraphale didn't need to say “please” — although he did. Was doing. He was playing with Crowley’s hair, skimming whatever parts of him he could reach, uttering “please” interspersed with moans. 

His legs were parted like they had a mind of their bloody own, which was fine with Crowley.

For good measure, Crowley lightly retraced everywhere he'd already kissed with the very edge of his tongue, following the snake’s outer lines until Aziraphale was really pulling his hair. He was glad he'd kept it long.

“I... oh... I want...” Aziraphale let go of Crowley’s hair and sat up. “I realize I seemed... put out. Just before now. But will you... please... I...”

“I know, Angel. I'm going to give you what you want.”

All Aziraphale did was nod and collapse on the bed.

He didn't even glance at Aziraphale’s cock before taking him fully into his mouth. He might have considered looking, taking his time, under other conditions. But tasting had become imperative.

Besides, Aziraphale downright shouted in pleasure as soon as lips met head. Yeah, not delaying is far more gratifying. Crowley shut his eyes and worked him in his mouth, slow and careful at first, getting used to the feel of him, remembering the feel of him. He could have dedicated a century to this alone, flicking his tongue experimentally, easing halfway up, then down...

He'd thought Aziraphale was in pieces before, but he was wrong.

“More, oh, fuck... really, I don't know if I can last...”

Crowley couldn't exactly smile given his position, but he always wanted to smile when Aziraphale swore. Really swore. He relented and moved around on the bed so that Aziraphale could fuck his mouth properly. 

“Just like that — I'm...” Aziraphale gave a beautiful, long sigh as his hips canted. “So close.”

Crowley wanted him to be. He braced himself with his hands on Aziraphale's thighs, both for support and to touch him.

Then his angel came, shaking. 

It was, thought Crowley, luscious. He waited for him to spend himself before drawing away, swallowing.

Aziraphale could have been a lost Caravaggio portrait, undone as he was.

A few tries were needed before Crowley’s voice would actually make sound. He rested his head on the snake’s midsection, using Aziraphale’s leg as a pillow. “Fuck me, that was phenomenal.”

"Short."

"Doesn't mean it wasn't phenomenal."

“Are the wings back?”

It was only the nervousness in Aziraphale’s voice that spurred Crowley into speaking more. “Erm... mine or yours?” 

“I don't see yours,” said Aziraphale.

“Yes.”

“Oh. Do I... have I always done that?” His thigh muscle shifted under Crowley’s cheek. “It’s very strange. They don't feel different when they're visible, but you're the only one who has seen them down here.”

Crowley licked his own lips, smiling like a fool. “You don't do it every time you complete. If you must know. You've only ever let loose like that when I give you head.”

“My word.”

“And it's not like they knock anything over, or — or set themselves on fire. You've got a bit that should be aflame right now.” 

Crowley peered at the taper candles. The edge of one of Aziraphale's wings fluttered over them, orange flame dancing with pearly feathers. The physics really were astounding. The wing was there. And not there. Just like it was there and not there when it was invisible.

“How bizarre,” said Aziraphale. He was trying to sound prim and barely made it.

“A bit, yeah. When did you get it?”

“What?”

“Snake,” mumbled Crowley.

“About... ten years past 1911.”

“You...” Crowley stared up at the angel, his angel, who was naked on bedlinen on his back with his wings almost spanning the room. Most prone position imaginable. Still gazing at Crowley with more compassion and faith than Crowley thought he deserved.

“I missed you. I didn't know what had happened. But I had faith that you'd come back to me.”

“It was for me?”

“Of course.”

“Why would you...”

“Do it?” Aziraphale’s eyes were warm. So warm. “For one thing, I thought you'd have more than...”

“I've just the one. And it...”

“I know. You didn't want it. I remember.” Aziraphale brought his thumb to rest on the infernal snake. “I've never seen you without it.”

“You wouldn't have. We were so full of ourselves back then. I popped down to report what had happened with Eve, and next thing I knew...” Crowley sniffed. “Anyway, by the time I'd popped back up and stood with you on the Wall, it was there.” 

Aziraphale’s thumb went back and forth, feeling like gossamer. “I wish I could...”

“I'm over it, now. So rubbish and on the nose to mark a snake with a snake. Like, right, thanks, I knew what I was already.” Crowley shook his head. He was rambling. “Why... why’d you get —“

“My dear fellow, I should think that was perfectly obvious,” said Aziraphale.

“But you didn't even remember us...” Crowley wiggled his eyebrows. “Fornicating.”

“I didn't need to. It wasn't a memento of a notch on my bedpost.”

Chortling, Crowley found he understood. Aziraphale, after all, was somehow seared into his entire being. “I thought you didn’t want me the same way I wanted you,” he confessed. I have to tell him everything I can. Aziraphale had marked himself, been carrying this, and Crowley had been under the impression that even if the feelings were there for both of them, they would not be given life. 

Now, he felt something akin to hope.

“Which is to say, entirely?”

“Yes.”

“I always did,” said Aziraphale. “Even if I said I didn’t. I didn’t mean to cause you pain, with whatever... I said. Or did. but I… I accept that I caused it… and I… I’m sorry for it.” 

Aziraphale brought his hand under Crowley’s chin so that they looked each other in the eye.

“S’okay… I went to Alaska. Had some very fresh fish. You’d have loved that. Then I pretended to be an obscure Norse god.”

Chuckling, Aziraphale tugged wordlessly at Crowley’s shoulders, telling him without words to “come up here.”

Crowley did.

Chapter Text

Late April, 1911

 

 

 

There was very little that Aziraphale could imagine ever being better than this, and he was an aesthete of the first order who loved not only all of God’s creatures, but also the mortal inventions and foibles that made life on Earth so madly exquisite. 

Crowley was before him, laying on the bed. Skin promising as blank paper, hair red like cinnabar, all of him disheveled and wanting, waiting to be touched more. The entire bedroom felt as surreal as a dream, not that angels dreamt unless they wanted to sleep.

Crowley was already wrecked. They both were. But this — this was a wonderful game. So often he felt out of control around Crowley, though he worked hard not to show it. And generally failed, he knew. It was novel to have Crowley wait to be served. To have that mouth open out of pleasure and not to speak. It wasn't that he disliked Crowley’s voice or what he had to say. Actually, even after centuries, the sound still did things to his insides that he didn't quite believe were advisable.

It was just heady to have Crowley silenced for carnal reasons. Aziraphale was sure that giving in, succumbing to the bewildering pull he felt to Crowley’s body and mind and soul — he still had a soul and Aziraphale felt it, despite the popular misconception that fallen angels relinquished theirs — was his favorite transgression to date. And he had committed rather a lot of them.

He admired Crowley for several moments, eyes raking from head to foot. He looked like a living Botticelli, a masterpiece. Venus and Adonis in one, thought Aziraphale. Arresting. 

Though, the bootblack wings with the iridescence of polished labradorite were probably more William Blake than Sandro Botticelli. He wouldn't mention they were out just yet. He wanted to see how Crowley would respond to certain, targeted touching. They were also wonderful to look at, and Aziraphale did not want them to be veiled away. Crowley didn’t abide by the same rules of Heavenly etiquette... the rationale of which Aziraphale could not quite justify even if it shaped him. 

But the demon was proud and might be contrary about the whole thing. Who knew.

Every time he so much as twitched, a new constellation appeared. Supernovas and collapsed stars and little glittering galaxies. Selfishly, Aziraphale wanted to watch for longer. They were much more compelling than Heaven’s standard variety, and unlike what he'd heard about demons, Crowley apparently groomed his.

“Aziraphale, if you don't —“ Crowley groped around, aiming and failing to reach him. “Come down here.”

Tutting, Aziraphale said, “That doesn't sound much like someone who knows how to be patient. 

It was more of an instinctive agreement they’d reached: Crowley would not speak, not try to touch, until told that he could. They’d talked about it only enough to establish that it was happening.

Aziraphale stood just a step away from the bed, unembarrassed by his own nudity, using it as an enticement. He knew contemporary humans were generally fond of svelte physiques like Crowley’s, even if they said they had no preference or were themselves larger. We’ve probably Lord Bryon to thank for that, the foppish, dramatic boy. 

Aziraphale himself might be kindly termed “zaftig.” But Crowley seemed to like it, and so he felt no need to change anything.

“I’ve never been patient. I’m not about to start now.”

Aziraphale tried to sound more stern than breathless. It was a battle. “I thought we agreed you were to be patient. You were very piqued. You’ll keep quiet until I say otherwise.” 

Crowley blinked, purposefully and slow, veiling honeyed eyes with heavy lids. He resettled himself on the bed, but didn't try to touch Aziraphale. His arousal was obvious and Aziraphale took proprietary possessiveness in the evidence — in his flushed cheeks, the pink across his chest, and his swollen labia. Aziraphale wasn't used to any of it, but it was beautiful all the same. 

Good, my dear.

He wasn't even used to Crowley overall. Couldn't say one was used to someone in bed if it had only been four hours. Four glorious hours. 

“Oh — don't sound so smug.”

“I haven't said a word, yet.”

“No, but you thought smug.”

“No, I thought I told you to keep quiet,” said Aziraphale. He took the single step closer to the bed. “You’re so good when you do as you're told, Crowley.” 

He had a theory about one of Crowley’s proclivities. They hadn't tested it tonight, yet. He was about to. “Thank you for being so good to me.” Crowley’s breath caught. Aziraphale smiled inwardly. He leaned down on his bed, using both elbows for support, hovering over Crowley so that their faces were inches away from one another and their bodies scantly separated, yet not touching. “I want to be good to you, too.”

“You—“ Crowley caught himself.

“Well done. You're learning.” Aziraphale kissed the snake that was now mostly hidden by Crowley’s sideburn — both of which were ridiculous, but in fashion this decade — then kissed the tip of his long nose. Still, Crowley was silent. “You're such a wonderful, true soul.” He felt Crowley’s disbelief spar with desire and yearning. A yearning to truly be “wonderful” and “true.” Part of the objective of this game was to convince him — however much he could be convinced — that his disbelief was unmerited and his yearning was not wasted. “You are, darling.”

My faith in you is not misplaced, Crowley. He tried to send out as much reassurance as Crowley broadcast skepticism. Aziraphale theorized that Crowley would blossom like a rose under the sun with some kind words, and get off on them as he blossomed. They hadn't talked often about what their respective head offices were like, but it didn't take a genius to guess that Hell was not full of praise even for a job well done. 

Neither was Heaven, but Aziraphale didn't think overmuch about it. 

The Almighty gave praise when She was wont to do. It had just been centuries since anybody remembered Her doing so. Besides, rarely did any of the praise trickle down to Principalities — most of it was for the Archangels. 

And angels are such distantly polite creatures in general, he thought, knowing it was just this side of traitorous. He hadn't ever really known love of any sort in Heaven, nor a kind word. He’d just known... platitudes. Meaningless and superficially pretty. And if Crowley was any example, Hell’s idea of praise was an Everlasting brand.

All right, then. Perhaps the game was just as much for Aziraphale as it was for Crowley, if for different reasons. It could be for both of them. 

Crowley had never alluded to Hell being a place where conversation was all entirely insults and horrible topics, though Aziraphale had the stereotype in mind that it was. 

But Crowley had gone on about there being no personal space. Aziraphale was quick to glean that just because there was none, there wasn't necessarily the sort of contact one could be fond of — and definitely not contact of the sensual or romantic variety. Not in Crowley’s neck of the woods, anyway. He was no incubus or succubus or vampire, though he might fancy the thought that he looked like one. Likewise, just because not every word exchanged was foul or four-lettered... Aziraphale would bet good money, if he were the betting sort, on his Crowley rarely hearing anything good about himself whatsoever. 

He was going to change that.

“Touch me, Crowley.” Off the question in Crowley’s eyes, Aziraphale elaborated. “Wherever you'd like, dearest.”

Compliant, his pupils blown, Crowley brushed his fingers against nipples that were already sore from so much play, play to which Aziraphale was unaccustomed. He'd been around long enough to have seen anything and everything to do with sexual relations — and some things he'd like to unsee, frankly, especially a few that had occurred in Rome during the fifteenth century — but until now, he'd not indulged in pleasures of the flesh with a partner. He hadn't wanted to. His hand was good enough. 

Every time he considered someone, the idea of being so engaged with Crowley entered his mind and wouldn't leave. He'd fought it. Fought it for long enough, he thought, groaning as Crowley’s fingers on the sensitive nubs aroused him yet again. 

He had to have been mad to deny himself this. 

He did worry that whenever they were done here, he might be pulled into being scared of the energy between them, again. Paralyzed, almost mortally afraid, but that... that… utter crisis of being could wait until... and you’re an idiot if you think Crowley hasn’t slept with anyone else. 

The thought made him sad. 

It was stupid, though. He was a demon. He was thousands of years old. His entire raison d’être was temptation. He must’ve slept with people as part of his work, mustn’t he? Aziraphale didn’t dare ask. 

It could not have been correct to assume that Crowley had waited for him the same way he’d pined for Crowley. I’ll just have to make my peace with it.

“Angel, are you with me?”

“Mm?”

“Don’t think of anything that doesn’t involve you, me, and this bed,” said Crowley firmly, but quietly. “You keep fading in and out. I can feel it.”

“I’m… I wasn’t…”

Crowley’s arched, disbelieving right eyebrow was paired with a cheeky flick of his left wing, a little ruffle of feathers. “Stay with me,” he breathed. He rubbed his index fingers in gentle circles and Aziraphale licked his own lips as his hips seemed to move toward Crowley of their own accord. “There's nothing but us.” Crowley tugged on his nipples slowly as though to punctuate the point.

So good. Shivering as his flesh erupted into goosebumps, Aziraphale nodded. “I believe you.” 

The game could take a slightly different turn, he decided. Crowley’s voice was like an arrow piercing his heart and it nearly always had been. No, always had been. He felt himself give way as though the words physically entered him. 

“Good. Stop getting ahead of things and lose yourself in me.”

“I’ve never…” He didn't want to say it out loud. Not because he thought it was distasteful, but because he'd been with nobody but Crowley, whom he supposed customarily had... A penis? thought Aziraphale, who was still finding his way around racier words. He had no issues using the anatomical ones. Crowley had only just shifted into having a vulva and everything pleasurable that accompanied it, ten or fifteen minutes ago. 

Regardless of what either of them possessed by way of features, teasing and touching him still seemed less daunting than copulating.

The way they did it, foreplay was slower-going and gave time to witness cause and effect, which Aziraphale was in favor of. He could figure out what Crowley liked, what worked and what didn’t. 

Whereas simply, well, diving in didn’t hold as much appeal because it seemed like it could be riskier.

Oh, don’t be so insipid… you were just as worried about taking him in the bum and look how well things have turned out after that. You’ll be fine. His self-admonishment was drowned out by, I just don’t want to disappoint him.

“Never fucked a cunt, before?” 

“Never had sex with another being, before,” said Aziraphale. “Until tonight. It’s all new, honestly.” He smiled rather bashfully, despite the both of them being nude and having brought each other to orgasm in several different ways already.

“Could have fooled me. Did Heaven issue you with that cock? Because it certainly felt like Heaven when you were bollocks-deep in my arse. And my mouth.”

“That is a horrible line, Crowley.” 

All the same, the need that it brought forth was astounding. 

“Fine… did they issue you with your arse, then? Because that felt like Heaven, too. Riding you.”

Aziraphale whimpered, a funny little noise between a malformed word and a squeak. “Crowley, honestly…” Childishly, he so wanted to know if Crowley had ever declined offers of companionship because they were coming from the wrong person.

“They’re not lines at all. This may come as a shock, but I didn’t quite enjoy Heaven, Angel. So... it's all colloquial.” He grinned. “Let me feel that gorgeous prick of yours inside me, again. I want to see what kind of blasphemy I like better. Being sodomized, sodomizing someone else, or you taking my virginity.”

Crowley, perhaps predictably, did not have trouble with racy words or concepts. He was quite brazen in expressing both of them. 

Aziraphale went mad for it, truth be told, and he knew that Crowley knew it.

“What nonsense. Virginity is a social construct. And... technically, all of this has been sodomy.” 

Virginity. Did Crowley mean literally, in the sense that he’d never slept with anyone else, too, or figuratively, in the sense that he’d never had sex in this manner? 

“Of course it is. Misogynistic and ridiculous. And the Bible’s been so often translated that humans fucked up the bit about ‘sodomy’ and lost themselves a whole arena of fun.” 

He was right; Aziraphale didn’t even bother to pretend to be scandalized.

“Won’t you get in trouble for...” Aziraphale looked pointedly between Crowley’s legs. “Changing?”

“I don't care if I do. They can cite me as they like.”

“No, you should care… well… I mean to say, they can't find out about us. In any capacity at all, whether that’s this or the Arrangement. They would destroy you,” said Aziraphale, searching Crowley’s angular face in earnest.

“They won't. Remember — nothing but us, right now.” Crowley stroked Aziraphale’s cheek, taking calm, slow breaths as he did. “I'm wet and aching for you. Make me come.” The soft words made Aziraphale moan. “You didn't have any trouble adjusting to touching my clit.”

Aziraphale wouldn’t deny it. The flesh was so soft and inviting, and it was all very enticing. “I don’t see what the trouble would be. What’s your point?”

“Foreplay comes naturally to you.” He kissed Aziraphale on the mouth. 

“But we’re not natural at all,” said Aziraphale, teasing Crowley’s lips apart with his tongue.

“Work with me, here.”

“I believe I have been since the dawn of human time, have I not?”

While sex with Crowley was beyond anything Aziraphale could have hoped, and he had imagined it often enough with the help of pornographic novels by way of Amsterdam and Paris, what he found most intoxicating was this. The wonderful familiarity and back-and-forth that he'd never felt with another.

“The rest will sort itself, too,” said Crowley. “And the mechanics… not to be crass, but as you’re the one penetrating…” Aziraphale bit at Crowley’s lip and Crowley sighed before continuing, “Trust me, you’ll get the hang of it.” 

Bless him, or not, as the case might have been. Crowley wasn’t quite cottoning on to the source of Aziraphale’s unease. 

“I know that. I'm not naive. But I don't... I don’t want to do it wrong.”

So he has slept with others. It made sense, but it also made Aziraphale nervous — despite overwhelming proof to the contrary — that he’d been disappointing Crowley this entire evening. 

Crowley had to have been with more innovative partners, better partners, more attractive partners than him. 

“Wrong?”

“I don’t want to be bad at it.” 

Doubts notwithstanding, Aziraphale listed toward Crowley’s entrance, his member already growing harder despite his nerves. Heaven preserve me.

“You won’t. You could never.” Crowley arched his hips up. “Come here, Angel.”

Putting off what he felt was the inevitable, that he would finally disappoint Crowley and they’d return to being — Surely we couldn’t stay friends after this… business associates? — Aziraphale decided he wanted to see him squirm a little more. He brought his hand between them and slipped a finger inside Crowley, stroking. 

“Maybe in a moment or two.”

Oh, that’s... not objectionable.” Crowley’s hands dropped from Aziraphale’s chest and clenched on the coverlet beneath him. “God, you...” He pressed himself into Aziraphale’s finger, and gently, Aziraphale added another. Crowley was so wet that it was easy to work inside him, beckoning slowly until he was bucking his hips with the movements. “Deeper,” he said, looking at Aziraphale through eyes that were almost shut. 

Aziraphale gulped and tilted his head, doing as Crowley wanted while littering the side of his face with kisses. It was doing wonders to dissipate his nerves, though they still lurked in the back of his mind. 

It wasn’t the different anatomy by any means — it was, he conjectured, discovering how much he had needed this. How much more he needed this — needed Crowley — than to be obedient, to be angelic. It was all, in the best of ways, destabilizing. But having one’s foundations cracked, no matter how pleasantly, amounted to the same thing, didn’t it? Being weakened?

He tried to refocus on what Crowley had said. Only them. Only right now. It drove him to tell the truth.

“I need you more than I need the Almighty, Crowley,” he said, kissing the side of his lips, lingering. “I just didn’t understand how badly.”

Crowley’s eyes went big with surprise.

“It’s true."

“Walls have ears, Angel.”

“Not mine. I’ve Wards. Don’t like eavesdroppers.”

“That’s clever of you.” 

“Besides, what makes you think me saying that would capture more attention than all the other noise we’ve made? Surely if the Almighty is listening in, and I don’t know if She can… but then, I’m not much of a magician… She would already be turning Her head away in shame.”

“Oh, you are very much a magician; I beg to differ. There,” said Crowley, as Aziraphale grazed a specific spot inside of him. “You’re making a very valid…” he struggled to form words as Aziraphale watched him with pique, pride, and slight amusement. “Fuck, sod this, I need you.” 

He grabbed Aziraphale’s wrist and pulled his fingers away from their work. Intrigued, Aziraphale glanced at them, registering the slick, clear fluid that stretched between his middle and third fingers. He licked them curiously. Crowley watched him, intently watched his mouth move.

Salty, a little, and…

Bodies truly are amazing, he thought. It was all very visceral to experience versus just to read. What a — 

Aziraphale's musing was entirely interrupted by Crowley taking his member in hand and guiding it toward himself, greedily, urgently, as though he was in imminent danger of actually dying if things didn’t move any faster. 

“Crowley!”

“I love your sense of timing. I love how leisurely you are. Usually.” Crowley was panting and his eyes were as wide as his lips. “But this isn’t dinner, Angel. It’s dessert. Decadent, sumptuous…” he swallowed, going silent, looking at Aziraphale as though trying to will him to give him what he wanted. 

He moved his hand so that he could paw at the inside of Aziraphale’s thigh.

Aziraphale didn’t know whether to be disappointed or even more aroused than he was already. I always savor dessert. He was also stunned.

Love? But he was more galvanized by the urgency in Crowley’s expression than stunned by his words. He was trying to think later and feel now. Decisively, he took Crowley by the hips and rolled them both over. 

Yes,” said Crowley, settling astride him immediately. 

They weren’t joined, not yet, but the sticky heat that skimmed Aziraphale’s belly was going to drive him mad. 

Crowley smiled and brushed a shock of red hair from his forehead. 

Aziraphale was, with that inconsequential gesture, awed by his beauty, the way the tones of his skin and hair and wings all interplayed with each other. The fabric of the fourposter’s canopy even complimented him. It was something Florentine and eighteenth century, lush and botanically themed. The blues and greens and lilacs framed everything about Crowley to perfection.

“You're perfect,” Aziraphale said. 

Crowley was never one to be vulgarly vainglorious. But, knowing that he always took pride in his appearance, Aziraphale was charmed to see him blush.

“Do you think so?”

“Mmhm. You are absolutely stunning.” He ran both of his hands from the sides of Crowley’s hips, to his waist, then up his chest. Crowley leaned down to accommodate him. “So deeply beautiful.” Aziraphale kept moving his hands until he stroked his collarbone, then lean shoulders. 

He smiled, more to himself than to Crowley, and touched the bases of both his wings. Crowley hissed a bit, a sound of approval, and Aziraphale took that to mean he could keep touching. They weren’t soft, the feathers. They were silky if one followed the grain. He was surprised to learn that they made his hands tingle, feel warm like he sat close to an autumn bonfire or held a cup of cocoa. 

“They’re breathtaking, Crowley.”

“They’re just wings. Nothing special. You’ve got your own.”

“They’re your wings. That means I love them just as much as the rest of you. But they’re also quantifiably and categorically pretty. Mine are just… white. Boring.”

Crowley just stared at him, appearing equally lost and elated, and it took Aziraphale a few breaths to understand why. He wondered if Crowley had ever been told he was loved. By anyone. The Rebellion in Heaven had been so long ago that even if he had — if the Almighty had told him — it would have been ages past.

“You love me.”

Aziraphale wouldn’t look away. Hadn’t quite… wanted to jump to that… He nodded.

“How?”

“What —“ 

“Literally, how?”

“More strongly than I’ve ever done anything in my life,” he said, knowing as he spoke the words that they were both true and damning. “If we have lives, that is.” Aziraphale realized that after falling, Crowley would have been taught that love was repugnant. He would have also been taught that, by definition, he was unlovable and unworthy. “You aren’t beyond my love, Crowley. You deserve all of it.”

Crowley kissed him, hard and fully. 

Aziraphale’s lips met his eagerly, though the force of the kiss knocked the wind out of him a little. It didn’t deter him. They didn’t need to breathe, after all. 

He shifted his hips under Crowley and entered him, his mouth opening in a silent shout as Crowley stuttered out a soft whimper. Aziraphale had forgotten, somehow, that they were almost aligned for it, that was the whole point, and… Oh, Lord. 

It was bliss. 

“Christ,” said Crowley, raking his nails along Aziraphale’s arms deep enough to leave little, bleeding ruts. “Ah… sorry. Sorry.”

“I don’t mind,” said Aziraphale. Crowley had done it earlier, too, to his back. Aziraphale’s only coherent thought about it was that unless he healed himself, he’d look like he got into a fight with a particularly stubborn, acrobatic cat. While naked.

“You fill me so well.” Crowley drew himself up and back enough to create more leverage, more tautness. 

Aziraphale loved it. “Yes, you…” he turned his head into one of the pillows to stifle an indecently loud shout. In the end, they appeared to be two men in humans’ eyes, and he really didn’t want to miracle them out of a holding cell or a Black Maria if a neighbor or a passerby decided to take issue with them. He winced to think of having that out with Upstairs. Right, just having a little bachelor’s night with the Demon Crowley and things went awry... terribly sorry.

“You… like it, hm?” Crowley took both of his hands and squeezed, mirroring the squeeze with his thighs. “Fuck, how the… how in blazes… do you feel this fucking sublime?”

Aziraphale keened, caught mid-nod, and arched into Crowley’s movement — the welcoming, wet heat of him. “I’ve no idea… just don’t you dare stop.”

“Daft if you think I would.”

“I’d let you ride me like this to perdition and back.”

Grinning, Crowley said, “I think you’re essentially fucking perdition, itself, Angel.”

God in Heaven, that smile... Aziraphale didn’t want this to end, but the more they moved, the more necessary it became. He ached, he needed. His need seemed to translate into a friction that Crowley liked, because the grin was replaced by a beatific expression. It was something very close to the old, marble statues of saints in ecstasy, which was, when all was said and done, highly appropriate for the situation. 

Aziraphale couldn’t look away from him, and he sat up with a groan, craving the shift in positions, cradling Crowley’s hips lightly in his hands. 

Crowley seemed to approve, anchoring himself by putting his hands on Aziraphale’s shoulders. “Like that, yeah, God, Aziraphale.” Because the way Crowley was clinging meant he was in no danger of unseating himself, Aziraphale reached for where they were joined together. Experimentally, he grazed Crowley with his thumb, noting just how swollen he’d become. 

“You were so ready for me,” Aziraphale said, kissing Crowley to stifle his sounds of needy want.

“I told you I was,” said Crowley, rocking into his thumb. “Even if I didn't use those words.” He grunted. “Careful… I won’t last if you do this.”

“I don’t want you to last. We’ve got all night. I want you to come.”

“Do you?”

“I want to feel you come hard around my prick,” said Aziraphale, disregarding his own discomfort with the word “prick” to give Crowley a taste of his own medicine. The effect was gratifying. 

Crowley rocked harder, saying, “Sounds wonderful when you say it.”

“I love how your cunt takes me.” In for a penny, in for a pound. “Like we were made for each other, my darling.”

“Always yours.”

Aziraphale pumped into him and the poor, little bed creaked in protest. It had been through a lot these last four hours. More than it had been through in its tenure with Aziraphale.

“Yes, Crowley. You’re mine. Certainly not Hell’s.” He kissed Crowley’s lips, then his jaw, mindful to keep pressing his thumb softly. “Now, are you going to come for me?” 

Crowley fell silent, but Aziraphale felt it when he orgasmed, felt when the muscles went tight and gave up all their tension until they finished their work. 

“Good, you’re so good,” said Aziraphale. 

Crowley only mumbled. Then he fell onto him, so Aziraphale bore their weight and laid back down, thrusting once more as he did.

His own orgasm was no less lackluster, but it was just as quiet. Release was — as it had been — such an elegant sensation. He was sure his own face mirrored the same ecstasy Crowley’s had. It carried the joy he should have reserved for the Almighty, and could never hope to cultivate for Her now that he knew this. As he came down from the high, he skimmed Crowley’s back with fingertips that even seemed more sensitive, more aware and alive. 

“I’d say we can… define that as a successful exploration, don’t you?” said Crowley.

Aziraphale laughed, exhausted but pleased. “Yes. I agree.”

“Just don’t write it down anywhere.”

“I don’t need to. I won’t forget.”

“No… no… I don’t imagine I will, either,” said Crowley, his words almost slurring.

“Dearest, do you want to sleep?”

“I’m a demon; I don’t need sleep.” But his speech was drifting into an incoherent, sleepy mumble. Aziraphale smiled, studying the Florentine canopy above their heads, noticing as he did that Crowley’s wings were drooping. “Neither do you, you celestial powerhouse.” 

“It is nice, though. You can sleep. For a bit.”

“Want to do more of this, Aziraphale. Sleeping’s so… dull.”

“And we can. It’s barely just midnight.” He smoothed his palms over Crowley’s shoulders.

“How the Heaven do you know that?”

“The candles have marks on them. I lit them when we returned from the Savoy and —“ 

“All right, as long as it’s just midnight. That’s not so late.”

“I shall wake you up in an hour.”

“Promise?”

“I promise.”

“Good.”

“Crowley…”

“Mmhm?”

“Should we…” Aziraphale wiggled his hips. “When we wake up, won’t it be…” He meant to say “messy” and ask if they should have a bath, but the question died as he realized he’d rather not be parted at all from Crowley right now. He didn’t much care if it was a messy situation. At least they didn't have to worry about one of them expecting. Thank God for small favors.

“Oh, Heaven, Angel — I don’t think I can take another go, right now.”

He was so fond of Crowley’s bravado. Not a minute ago and he’d claimed he wanted to do more, not rest. 

“That isn’t why I’m…” Aziraphale stopped himself from clarifying. But it could be why I’m moving, Crowley, dearest. “Well, actually, I’ve read…”

“What’ve you read and how could it possibly matter right now?”

“There are different sorts of orgasms. You see. When one who is in possession of your current anatomy is successfully aroused in more than one manner.”

“Uh-huh…” Crowley was so abstracted that he was just humoring him, not following him. Fine. That could actually work in Aziraphale’s favor.

As he moved under Crowley, he found that he wasn’t — and wouldn’t? — be hard enough to make him come, again. Not for a while in that way. Good to know. Thinking, scheming, Aziraphale pulled out. 

Crowley murmured in displeasure and wriggled toward him.

Aziraphale laid alongside him, the size of the bed making for very close quarters. He didn't want to miracle it any bigger. “It's all right, my dear, I'm not going anywhere.”

“Good.”

“I'd not abandon you.”

There was that one place Crowley had seemed to like most… before he took my hand away. Tentatively, Aziraphale slid his fingers back inside, mimicking what he’d done before.

Crowley did not halt him. “Oh my God, Aziraphale… I am well and truly spent…” But it didn’t take very long for him to start to move with anticipation, at first like his body was doing so unconsciously, then with more intent from its owner. Aziraphale angled his hand so that he was taking Crowley a little more shallowly than before, a little more gently, but quicker. 

There. He recognized how the tissue itself felt different, as well as how Crowley’s breath quickened and his legs started to go stiff. 

“Still think you can’t? Does it feel good to try?”

“It does. You absolute terror.” Crowley’s head leaned back into a pillow and he watched Aziraphale’s hand moving between his legs as best he could. “You… Holy terror.”

“I won’t be offended if you don’t come.” Aziraphale meant it entirely, and he’d stop if Crowley asked him to in earnest.

“I don’t… we… probably won’t be risking… risking that. After all.” 

“No?”

Crowley’s entire body shook as Aziraphale pressed his lips into the meat of his closer shoulder. 

“I... adore how you’re giving it to me, Angel.”

“Love how you’re taking it. Again.”

“Mm, do shut up… just wait until you get your comeuppance,” Crowley said, without any bite. He writhed when another orgasm was eked out of him. “Saints and angels drag me all the way to —“ he gawped at Aziraphale helplessly as he shuddered. “Judgement day,” he finished on a croak.

Aziraphale kissed his shoulder, leaving his fingers where they were, feeling entirely sated. “That was a woeful pun. Comeuppance. But I look forward to getting it.”

“Wasn’t a pun… just like I didn’t use a line.” Yawning, Crowley struggled to keep his eyes open. “Bollocks, now I might actually need to sleep. Fancy that. What’ve you done to me? Feel like I’ve… gone swimming and barely escaped drowning. In the best way.” 

They smiled at each other. Crowley looked a bit unhinged, but Aziraphale treasured it. 

He had done that. To Crowley.

Aziraphale settled in beside him, taking his own hand back and wiping it carelessly on the linens. He was resolute to remain awake. He didn’t want to miss this for the world, and even — or perhaps especially — his demon needed an angel to watch over him as he slept.

Chapter Text

Roughly one year before Adam Young’s birth

 

 

 

The roof was the last place Crowley wanted to go. Then Aziraphale explained why he proposed they head up. 

Crowley realized that even through everything, Aziraphale was still trying to protect him — in a misguided fashion.

“I don't know if I want to ask you what happened, dear.”

Crowley opened his mouth to protest, then sighed. He remembered what the angel had said about how Crowley might do something for Aziraphale to his own detriment. “You could ask. Anything you’d like. I’m good with questions, me.”

“But — what you did in here was so eloquent.”

Eloquent like ripping his soul to pieces, it seemed to Crowley. He said, wishing to show he had some kind of backbone, “Aziraphale, what you want is worse for me than asking questions.” He didn't mean to use the full truth, but cradled in his arms, there was no space for lies or prevarication. He just couldn't face the prospect of feeling all that he'd felt on the roof. It was Aziraphale who had forgotten, that was the goal, but he'd done his utmost not to ruminate on anything that transpired, too.

Aziraphale was silent for a long time before he spoke. “I’m sorry, Crowley, but I also think I need to feel it and not just hear it.” He murmured it into Crowley’s mussed hair. “I want to understand. So as not to do it again.” Then Aziraphale ran his fingers along Crowley’s neck, gentling them into his hairline.

Glad I grew my hair out, he thought. “Can we talk first? I’ll walk you through the pornographic parts. They were fun.”

“That would be wonderful. But I want you to know that, to me, the pornography and love are one and the same. I can’t say what we did but I know how it felt, now. That doesn't mean everyone has to do it that way, or... even we have to do it that way, all the time...”

Tickled and pleased that the angel allied the two, Crowley smirked. Angels could sense love. He remembered what that had been like before his Fall. It only mystified him that he still could, too. 

It was only upon discovering all the other Fallen couldn’t, so far as he understood, that he pretended he was exactly like them. Nobody could know. Not down there. 

It was a little like how no one could know he'd also segmented reality and perception from his “opposite” number on Earth.

Thinking, Crowley decided he’d discuss his love-sensing-defect with Aziraphale one day. If the defect was part of the Almighty’s plan — and he had the sneaking inkling that it was, just because there could be no other explanation — it was an annoying joke. Being near the angel was like sticking his finger in a live electrical main, that was how full of love Aziraphale was. And Crowley sensed it, Crowley could feel all of it.

He did not talk about it. He didn’t let on that he could.

Crowley supposed he had started everything back in the Garden when a strange angel told him he’d given his sword away to one of the first humans. 

Crowley couldn’t stop it, an outpouring of the same sparkling electricity he later felt emanating from Aziraphale. Sometimes he wanted to ask if Aziraphale felt it was too quick, that beginning. If it was too overwhelming coming from Crowley because they were on different sides and fate was taut between them, a delicate balance, a design they could not comprehend because they were not allowed.

Even that long ago it was Crowley’s responsibility to sow disorder and discord. It was Aziraphale’s to foster protection and rightness. 

Yet there were times — well before Crowley mustered the courage to speak to Aziraphale in a human-like form — when the snake would watch the angel from the bough of a tree. Curious about this angelic creature who was enthralled by every new invention he found. Especially the first “flowers.” They had been beautiful, even when bruised after the very first rain.

Crowley hadn’t asked Aziraphale yet if he’d ever noticed a sinewy shadow out of the corner of his eye. A serpent.

But Aziraphale was transfixing then and now. He did everything with kindness. Underlying the kindness, there was ruthlessness. That was what giving up the great ruddy sword had been. Ruthlessness. Parrying God’s wrath with human empowerment, no questions asked. If that wasn’t ruthless in the most well-meaning way, Crowley didn’t know what was.

Crowley shook his head. “All right. We can go up.” He felt a tiny piece of him chip away like crumbling plaster from a damp wall. Aziraphale stroked both his arms. “I don’t know if it will help you.”

“I think it will.”

Before he could bite it back, Crowley said, “I don’t want you to do it again.”

“Darling, I won’t. I promise.”

But it wasn’t enough for Crowley. He wanted certainty in its purest form, yet recognized he could not have it. 

“I’m sorry, Angel, it’s not that I doubt your intentions; it’s that I’m nervous to think about going through it another time.”

“Keep being honest, Crowley. I think it makes all the difference.” He played with Crowley’s hair a little more, first running his fingers up along Crowley’s arms, then shoulders, and settling them in red tendrils. 

His angel was gentle, so gentle, but as immovable as a great body of water. Subject to his own tides, rarely vulnerable to anyone else’s. Crowley had realized, over time, that he was the rarity. He could shift the angel when others couldn’t. By the same turn, Aziraphale could easily influence him. The trick was never allowing him to know how much or how simply. Until now. That illusion was probably gone. Does that make me the moon? he wondered.

“Honesty, hmm?”

“Yes.”

“I want to do this every night for however long eternity does last.”

“Don’t you think you’d get bored?”

“Never.”

“Have you thought about it?”

Of course he’d thought about it. He had given it hours and hours of glorious contemplation. That fact did not cross his lips. “Yes, and rather more than just an offhand remark would specify.”

“I love you, you know.”

“I know. Say it anyway.”

“Now that I know I can, I shall.”

He wasn’t going to move before Aziraphale did, and Aziraphale did not seem likely to move for a long time despite being the first to ask if they could relocate. 

But Crowley was already undoing the so-called latches, picking the locks between now and 1911. It might take time, he thought, more time than undoing his handiwork down here had done. Aziraphale had been desperate and that lent the results absolute intensity. 

It had been Aziraphale, in fact, who willed the necessity of the locks and latches. Crowley did not know everything about the process, but he theorized that he was the conductor. A conduit. The angel had been the battery. It had taken the two of them together. This, naturally, was all speculation. 

But after a lifetime that was a long line of failed and successful experiments, Crowley had a feel for speculation based in fact while having the imagination to craft accurate postulations. 

 


 

This sunset, thought Aziraphale, was lovely. He hoped it would help soothe Crowley, who was markedly twitchy. 

Gazing, besotted, at him against the backdrop of a stained, candy-floss sky, Aziraphale felt a sort of wonder that this being was his. For Crowley surely belonged to him. Whether Crowley had not allowed himself to before, or he had and it was hidden from Aziraphale, he radiated a devotion that spoke eloquently and permeated both of them.

At the present moment, he was radiating devotion and that ember glow Aziraphale had so recently associated with lost emotions being recovered.

They were dressed, though with less care than usual — more out of deference to passersby on the street below than to a concept of decency. The section of roof that was habitable was small. Aziraphale didn’t think anyone could really see them, but it was better not to take the chance. Crowley had borrowed a white button-down to throw on over a pair of soft, buckskin breeches, which fit him because Aziraphale had pilfered them from a costuming workshop in the 1870s. They had never been Aziraphale’s size. 

He’d taken them for reasons other than to wear them. First, he originally vowed to do something with the fine, umber buckskin. Make a cushion, perhaps, or use it to repair a book’s cover — he never had. He wasn’t industrious that way. He was just a magpie who liked nice things. 

Maybe the breeches had been lying in wait for this exact moment.

The shirt was so old that the fabric had yellowed. It draped on Crowley most artistically, making for a perfectly titillating picture. And Aziraphale had never seen Crowley in white. It was a Hellish thing to avoid white or anything like it, or so he surmised. 

“Crowley, dear, are you… stuck?” If he was doing what he had done downstairs in the bedroom, it was taking more time.

“No,” he said, fingers to his temples, eyes closed and not hidden behind any glasses, “but I think I need you.”

Well, I don’t suppose that’s too forward, given what we’ve just done, thought Aziraphale, all but glowing himself at the recollection. He took a step toward Crowley.

“Not like that. Well, yes, I need you like that, but… however I accomplished it the last time, I think it took you.” Crowley’s hand shot out and Aziraphale took it. Eyes still closed, Crowley murmured, “Better already.” 

“Do you think it’s an order of magnitude? Like a miracle? Maybe it took less energy to do the flat?”

“Don’t know. Don’t care. Don’t want to have to do it again.”

“You won’t. We’re undoing. Not obscuring.”

There was a flare, a warmth, between their palms. 

Then Aziraphale was falling. The roof gave way from under his feet, and he was drifting, being tugged downward from somewhere in the pit of his stomach.

 


  

Stars glittered and fell overhead as Crowley was crying. Not outright sobs, but in slow, heavy trickles down his cheeks that he didn’t bother to wipe away. 

Aziraphale saw him, but he also saw himself facing Crowley, wearing things he still had at the back of his wardrobe. Some he did wear regularly even now. The waistcoat. The pocket watch. The brown wingtip spectators. Those a little less often; the leather was fragile.

He must be looking at that night. It was eerie, he decided, to see himself standing on his own roof gazing at Crowley while Crowley cried. That was also a sight he never wanted to see again, and knowing he’d caused it was nothing short of painful. Yet, this was what he wanted, was it not — seeing, understanding, so that he’d not commit the same error twice. Aziraphale steeled himself against a flood of guilt. The only true apology was never doing it again.

He wanted, needed to stroke Crowley’s cheek. He couldn’t, of course. Something like glass or a strong breeze kept him back, and he could not hear what was being said. He didn’t even know if he was standing anywhere or on anything. 

Very well. He supposed he deserved to feel so uncomfortable. 

If the stars and inky blue sky were clues, this regrettable scene was taking place after they’d spent all the time in bed. Both of them were dressed haphazardly. 

Rather like we are now, thought Aziraphale. Fascinated, terrified, he eyed Crowley in the past and ached, a far different ache to the one of desire or arousal. He’d caused those tears, that pain.

“Ah. This isn't perfect. Like a busted telly. But I guess it will do as a visual aid. You made it happen, you see,” said a sad voice near his shoulder. “And I helped.”

Crowley, it seemed, had come with him. That made sense. He was the one with the memories. Aziraphale glanced at him. His wings, so dark and pristine, were barely drifting in a draft Aziraphale could not feel. 

I suppose that means mine are out, too.  

Where were he and Crowley? Physically. He knew when they were, but this experience was all entirely outside of his frame of reference. They stood on his roof, yet didn't.

“I thought you did all of it.”

“Strictly speaking, I finished it. Put all the memories and impressions back in the bottle and sealed it tight. You did agree to it, at last. But of course you don’t recall it, so I think it’s a moot point.”

“I don’t know what you mean.” Aziraphale thought, I look very strange. So tense and aggressive. Even from the back.

Crowley’s face twisted into a frown. “You were so worried, Aziraphale, worried for me. You said you didn’t feel defiled or wrong. But you got so worked up over what Hell might do to me that you literally started to undo reality.”

“I beg your… I… what?”

“I think it was fear. Love, too.”

Magic was subject to a hierarchy. Aziraphale understood that as well as anything, which was to say, not much at all after this evening. But, it was possible to strengthen one’s means via imagination. The more one could imagine something or picture it, the more steadily that would take hold. He didn’t know if feelings played into things, too. They might. As he thought about what he might do to spare Crowley from anything nasty, he concluded that he would, if he could, attempt to bend what was. 

He could see himself becoming unhinged in the name of protecting Crowley.

Well, he was. Seeing it. Literally. “What a thing to do.”

“We’re arguing about it now. I don’t think you meant to at first, but once you realized things were fading you kept at it on purpose.” His voice was soft and wistful. “I felt it, Angel. I felt things slipping away from me like sand through an overturned hourglass. Never known anything like it. Horrifying. So. I proposed partitions.

“I’ve never dreamed I could do anything like that,” said Aziraphale, appalled. It was far too close to what the Almighty could do. Well, in theory. He had never asked. “I’m not much of anything at all. I don’t even know if one of the Archangels could make —“ 

“You’re better than them. I’d bet on you any day, Angel. I’d bet on us, too.”

“I,” said Aziraphale, still working through his own consternation, “tried to reshape reality. Because I was scared of what they’d do to you.” 

Truly, the most notable, important thing to him was that he really did love Crowley that much, which had motivated the action. He was not the same being now, and he was older, though not by a lot and especially not by his and Crowley’s standards. About a century might be prodigious for a human. It was a breath of air for an angel. 

“I didn’t want it to happen, so I improvised.”

“You are very good at that.” Wincing, Aziraphale forced himself to keep watching Crowley-of-yesteryear cry. He was almost ready to cry, himself.

“I didn’t know what I was improvising until it was done. But I decided I’d rather have the memories to myself than let you change what happened. You were trying to make it into nothing. You reasoned that if you undid it, there’d be nothing to punish. I knew you were right, but…” he paused. “Well, look at me.” Sadly, he gestured at his former self. The self, Aziraphale now knew, who’d disappeared for over ten years to recover. How on Earth Crowley had managed to forgive him, Aziraphale couldn’t say.

No, I can, he thought. I would forgive him if things were reversed. Crowley was so necessary to his existence that not forgiving him was a scarier prospect.

“So I forgot. You helped me forget, instead.”

“Rather than risk you recalling and trying to erase it, again, yes. That’s what ended up happening.” Crowley’s eyes were on his past self, and Aziraphale felt torn between the two of them. One at his side looking like a beautiful poet, the other before both versions of him looking like his world was being shattered. 

In a way, it was. 

“After we agreed, you begged me,” said Crowley, “though truth be told, I don’t fully know what you were begging for — it was incoherent. You are a terror when you’re livid.”

Aziraphale shuddered. He didn’t think he liked knowing he had so much power at his personal disposal. Gracious, to think it could happen any time his emotions got the better of him. Nobody seemed to realize it except for Crowley, but he did feel things quite intensely all of the time. It was something of a relief to see that night, years past, played out in front of him so that he knew it had meaning. But he’d learned something about himself — that he possessed an attribute — he had not previously realized. For an angel, that was disconcerting. It was rather rare that they discovered new facets of their being.

He reached over and grazed Crowley’s cheekbone, then followed his fingertips with a brush of his lips. “I’m happy you fought me.”

“Didn’t know if I could.”

“I wouldn’t have wanted…” Aziraphale thought of what they’d only just gotten up to in his bedroom half an hour before. “I am pleased you surprised yourself. But you must have felt so alone.”

He was ashamed of instigating that aloneness. 

His Crowley, unmoored and untethered. They’d had each other for thousands of years, in some capacity or another, and all it took was one night for Aziraphale to nearly obliterate all of that. He studied Crowley’s eyes, thinking that the demon had more grace within his soul than every celestial entity did, combined. That’s what this preservation of the past, their past, had been — grace. If Aziraphale had succeeded in weaving a new reality, Crowley would have faced far less pain. 

Instead, Crowley had rebelled against him and preserved moments of physically expressed love.

Aziraphale couldn’t stand the poetry of it. He kissed Crowley deeply, possessively, summoning every speck of protection and devotion he could muster. 

There was a dim pop around both of them and instinctively, he knew that when he stopped kissing Crowley — not that he wanted to — he’d look around and see they were in the present day. Not being confronted with echoes of hysterical angel and distraught demon.

“Did I make you lose your concentration, my dear?”

Gasping, Crowley said, “That was no stroll in the park.”

“I’d imagine not.”

“Are you satisfied?”

“What a thing to assume. I’m insatiable when it comes to you.”

“And brioche. And crêpes. That’s not what I meant.” Yet Crowley smiled. “I… did you get answers to your questions? See what you wanted to see?”

“If I ever make you so sad again, please feel free to discorporate me. I don’t say that lightly; I’ve had this body for —“ 

“Never.”

“Crowley, I was horrible!”

“No, you were frightened. In a very misguided and dramatic way, you were attempting to look after me. I didn’t want to discorporate you then, and I wouldn’t want to, now.”

That made sense. Aziraphale couldn’t countenance doing it to Crowley, so he couldn’t expect that Crowley would be able to do it to him. “I suppose.”

“I’ll just hide your favorite mugs. And your watch. Forster’s early draft of Maurice that you’ve got shoved in a drawer. Your spectacles.”

“As long as you don’t hurt any of it. Speaking of, where did you send our clothes earlier?”

Crowley rested his forehead against Aziraphale’s and worried his own lip. “I’ve no idea. I… aimed for my flat, if that’s any consolation.”

Laughing, Aziraphale kissed his lips lightly. “I’m not certain they made it.”

With a sigh, Crowley asked, “Can we get off this roof?”

Aziraphale nodded. 

He would probably never go on the roof again, if he were being honest with himself.

 


  

Twenty minutes later, they ambled through Soho. Crowley knew he looked like he was going to star in a reenactment at the Globe. Oddly, he found that he actually didn’t mind the overall effect of the borrowed clothes. Aziraphale even had an unblemished pair of his old sunglasses. They were dusty from disuse and had been wedged between a spherical astrolabe and a stand of chipped, Enlightenment-era test tubes. He'd forgotten, until they were already out the shop's doors, that Aziraphale had put his current, contemporary pair on the dressing table.

Crowley enjoyed this less fussy incarnation of Aziraphale, who still looked impeccable as ever. But without several of his usual layers due to their haste, he gave the impression of a well-fucked university professor teaching a course featuring H.D. — who was of the unshakable opinion that she was far better than Pound. Knowing that he had the snake wrapped around his thigh gave even more weight to this impression, even if the only one who knew he had the tattoo was Crowley.

Ice cream wouldn’t solve anything. Not that there was anything to solve, but Crowley felt it would be a good end to an evening of revelation. 

Not, of course, big-R “Revelation.” Just revelation of the personal sort. 

Crowley felt impossibly light and unburdened, and he hoped it would last. His and Aziraphale’s relationship, such as it was, was complex. 

He expected no less from a fallen angel and an angel who, like a pretty, exotic mushroom in stroganoff, had absorbed the flavor of a fallen angel. Or perhaps he, Crowley, was the mushroom. It didn’t matter. They could both be mushrooms with temptation and goodness blended together into a hardy stock. Satan, Aziraphale had to have rubbed off on him; he was thinking in food metaphors.

The colorful streets were alive with tourists and locals, warm weather drawing people out of their flats or hotels and leaving them all a bit barmy. 

Taking stock of everyone he saw, he was not the most strangely dressed. Goths were underfoot everywhere. Must have been a hard subculture to adhere to in summer. Then again, demons down Below wore all sorts of layers and the temperature could only be described as uncomfortable at best.

“Tell me you’ll have one,” Aziraphale said.

“Hm?”

“An ice cream cone.”

“Not usually one for ice cream, me.” He’d suggested that they return to their original plan just because he knew it would bring a smile to Aziraphale’s face. 

“Then you must try some of mine.”

“I’ve had whippy before, and I don’t think it being inside a cute fish will make it taste any better.” He didn’t like whippy. It didn’t taste like anything real and he was convinced that one of his people had been responsible for creating it.

Aziraphale linked Crowley’s arm with his. “I think it’s actually frozen custard, not just your average, run-of-the-mill seaside whippy. Comes in flavors, too. Chocolate, vanilla, green tea, mango…” the angel added, as an afterthought, “probably vanilla, as well?”

Crowley didn’t care if it was frozen haggis. If Aziraphale took his arm like this, always, someone could force-feed him rubbish served on a bap like a hamburger patty. He wouldn’t complain. “Fine, Angel, I’ll have my own ice cream fish. If there’s still any green tea whippy-cum-custard and they haven’t run out of it.” Not that he expected the whippy-cum-custard to use ceremonial grade matcha. He was a fan of green teas that were hard to procure. 

Every Christmas for the last few decades, Aziraphale got him different varieties of the stuff direct from Japan. With an artisan ceremonial tea set. Besides houseplants, they were the only things he actively collected — and it was more that Aziraphale collected them for him. That was for the best. Aziraphale had a much better eye for those kinds of objects, and apparently an unfailing, direct source of them.

Crowley walked them in the direction of the well-reviewed sweetshop he’d found online, weaving them past throngs of people. There was a long queue out the door and they would have to wait, but already Aziraphale was nearly hopping from foot to foot in his excitement. 

“Is it this place? A queue is always a good sign.”

“Yes, this is the one.” Crowley smiled faintly at his enthusiasm. “Well… what do we do to pass the time?”

“Play ‘count the tourist?’” Aziraphale’s eyes were wicked.

Shaking his head, Crowley closed the small distance between them and took him by the waist. He could feel its contours better without the dratted waistcoat. But he knew that Aziraphale greatly liked the piece of clothing, so he wouldn’t comment. 

“You are an incorrigible flirt, you know that?”

“One must be when one is learning the gavotte. I’ve had years of practice,” he said smugly. Crowley tried very hard not to think of all the humans who’d been allowed to experience Aziraphale in ways he’d only just begun to. All that time knowing someone, loving them, and never having what the humans could have so easily. 

All in the name of cosmic propriety, instigating social anxiety and self-pitying rage at the unfairness of everything.

Well, that was going to change.

“I don’t want to poke fun at tourists or learn the gavotte, thanks.”

“Oh, really, my dear. I don’t flirt with everyone. Primarily just you. Predominately you. I think people confuse politeness with flirtatiousness, these days.”

Crowley had spent too much time in the shop to think Aziraphale flirted with everybody. For one thing, there were rarely enough people in the establishment for him to flirt. Though he knew Aziraphale was correct, he still didn’t like to think of him flirting with humans now or in the Victorian era. He gave a muddled grumble in reply.

Looking about over the top of Aziraphale’s blond head, Crowley wondered if he had something to do with the way everyone’s mobiles seemed to have spotty service right here. Since he’d impacted the London phone networks as a test run for something much bigger, he thought he might. It hadn’t been enormous, just a spot of trouble for customers on Vodaphone. What he wanted to do eventually was clog up all the networks. He was ramping up to it.

But it was a stroke of true providence — or damnation — that here, at a spot whose popularity relied upon word of mouth, neither tourist nor London native seemed able to text. All around them were little mumbles of disappointment pertaining to the matter.

“Poor things,” remarked Aziraphale, lounging happily in Crowley’s arms. He licked his own lower lip and something resounded in the sweetshop gaggle, an invisible elastic ripple that rebounded. 

“Aziraphale! What did you do?”

“Gave them better mobile service,” Aziraphale confessed, sheepish. “It seems so very sad — if I were here alone, I would want to tell you about it.”

“I wouldn’t care as much as a human does about food.”

He would, though.

“I know, dear.”

“As long as you have my measure.”

“I believe I do,” said Aziraphale, breath very warm against his ear. “I do have your measure. You are far more bountiful than I gave you credit for.”

Shivering, Crowley said, “See? You didn't know everything, Angel.”

“Mm, no. I don’t, I am discovering. Crowley?”

“Hm?” 

Busy memorizing how they felt, how Aziraphale’s weight fell against him, like this, Crowley blinked slowly to focus. 

It was no small thing to be leaning into one another, no mundane matter. He loved how corporeality suddenly had more meaning and joy through such a small but powerful change. It was not that he disliked having a body like this one, or that he’d disliked being a serpent — some of those attributes he’d kept, anyway, through either choice or inevitability. It was purely that he’d never actually understood what the writers and musicians and playwrights had gone on about. 

No, he understood. Or yearned. He just hadn’t copped to it. 

“I think there are falling stars, again.”

Crowley looked up and smiled at the flickers of silver that moved like glittering koi under still water. “They might have been falling since we, ah, began.” He didn’t know if he meant “began” this evening or “began” in the garden. Maybe it didn’t matter.

Aziraphale nodded and murmured wistfully, with wonder, “Do you know... I feel this has all worked out for the best.” He sighed, and quoted, while his eyes were on the stars, “Sometimes with one I love I fill myself with rage for fear I effuse unreturn’d love —“

Crowley knew the words. Adored them, in fact. “But now I think there is no unreturn’d love, the pay is certain one —“

“Way or another,” Aziraphale finished with him, beaming. “I’d no idea you liked Whitman.”

“Angel, I believe I helped him write that poem.”