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the voice under all silences

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Once, sometime in the 1950s, Aziraphale and Crowley went to Glasgow.

He can’t remember the reason for the trip, thank Goodness, only that he and Crowley both had to go, for a blessing and a tempting, respectively, and they’d decided they both should make the trip this time. Heaven and Hell were keeping a closer eye on the miracles, even after they’d both managed to explain away, er – maxing out their credit limit, so to speak, with the whole church bombing fiasco a decade back.

As far as they were both aware, though, their miracles were the only thing that their sides were scrutinizing more closely, so they’d decided it would be safe to ride the train together. They were even so daring as to share a compartment. A minor miracle on Aziraphale’s part, one that would hardly even show up on the ledger, ensured that their otherwise empty cabin would be overlooked by everyone else on the train, even those still looking for seating.

He didn’t tell the demon he’d done it, and Crowley didn’t comment, but as they were sitting down, the Angel noticed a twitch in his cheeks, one he’d seen countless times before. It might as well have been a neon sign saying Crowley was trying his utmost not to smile.

That’s something Aziraphale has always appreciated about Crowley – while he loves giving the angel a hard time, he doesn’t feel the need to always go after low-hanging fruit. If you’ll pardon the expression.

Anyway. Facial tics aside, Crowley kept his peace, and Aziraphale followed suit. From the moment they took their seats, neither of them spoke a word; instead, they let the Midlands speed soundlessly by them to the rhythmic chug of the steam engine. Through the window, the long flats gave way, folding into rolling hills as green as anything, mist thick as milk blanketing it all.

While Aziraphale took in the scenery, he glanced over at Crowley every thirty minutes or so. Each time, his companion was observing him with an inscrutable expression, one cheekbone propped up in his hand, features carefully still. Even when they stopped at in-between stations and the whistle blew loud and shrill, Crowley did not break his gaze. He would have felt uneasy, or even threatened, if it had been literally any other creature in existence watching him like that, but this was Crowley. He did the same thing every time he watched Aziraphale eat.

The final time he checked, twenty minutes out from their destination, Crowley was still looking, and Aziraphale offered him a sunny grin, at which point the demon finally looked away, his cheeks twitching.

And as soon as the train hissed to a stop in Glasgow Central, their prior conversation about the merits of all the varieties of scotch resumed, right where they’d left it, as if five minutes had passed instead of five hours.

~oOo~

Now, after the Apocalypse that Never Was, their trip back to London passes in much the same way. The bus trundles along, gently swaying its passengers in their seats, nearly making Crowley spill the wine every time the driver hits a pot hole a bit too hard.

“I think he’s aiming for them,” is what the demon would say, if they weren’t having one of their Silences, but they are. Very much so. Aziraphale is starting to think that as comfortable as they are, or might have seemed before, they only happen when they both have too much to say. And the darksome night obscures the English countryside, keeping the scenery to a minimum, so there’s almost nothing to distract Aziraphale from the way Crowley is staring at him. Why did it never get to him like this before?

Perhaps because he knew it wasn’t time yet. Wasn’t even close to being Time yet.

There’s almost nothing to divert him, now that it is close.

But not nothing. His hands, for one. Yes, that will do, until a Better Moment. Just one more long silence, it won’t ki – discorporate me. Even if I feel like it might. Hands. Hands hands hands.

He studies the half-moons beneath his cuticles, the flush of blood below the clear, hard-varnished keratin of his nails. He lingers on the subtle wrinkles at his third knuckles, the deeper ones one joint further up. He admires the play of prominent river-blue veins beneath somewhat worn skin. He counts freckles he honestly has never seen before. He observes the way the tiny hairs on his wrists catch white from the moonlight and yellow from the dimmed fluorescents on the bus. To say nothing of the veritable map of lines he sees when he turns his hands palms-up: life-lines, head-lines, heart-lines. Feathers and carved furrows, shallows and depths; breaks and unbroken lengths, stutterings and constants. Beginnings and endings, false starts and false finishes.

Since professional manicures became available in 3500 BC, Aziraphale has been getting roughly one a week (the Fourteenth Century being a marked exception – Crowley is right about some periods of human history being far, far worse than others). But for all that care, however intentional it may have seemed, Aziraphale realizes now that he’s never appreciated his hands before. Not really. Being yanked from one’s corporal form (and returned to it, within an hour, in much the same fashion) will do that, he supposes.

Well. That, and the End of the World, the one that didn’t happen, due to the most unlikely bunch of humans he could have possibly imagined. And the most unlikely, most impossible demon, who defies every rule of Heaven and Earth and Hell.

The angel makes the mistake of looking over at Crowley, who sure enough is still staring at him, with (impossibly) more intensity than usual.

That time on the train, across from each other, Crowley’s fixed gaze could have passed as disinterest in the slow unfurl of England into Scotland. Aziraphale could tell himself that, despite Crowley’s face being angled straight toward his own, the demon was merely bored with the view and allowing his head to rest in a neutral position.

There’s nothing neutral about Crowley’s posture now. There’s tension in his shoulders, a twist to his torso. For once, he’s not inhabiting his typical insouciant slouch. Not sitting ramrod straight, either, never will – all the miracles in the world wouldn’t take the slither out of that spine of his. But he’s somewhere between the two, more apparently at attention, less at ease than Aziraphale has ever seen him.

They’ve never sat this close to each other, ever.

How odd. Six thousand years of starkly delineated personal space, obliterated by an earnest fellow in an International Express uniform. Erased entirely by the removal of a box containing all the rusted symbols of a Great Plan Doomed to Fail. Harbingers of the Ineffable Plan Yet to Unfold.

Aziraphale drags his gaze back to the window, but does not, cannot, lose track of Crowley in its dark reflection, in his peripheral vision. Crowley, who still stares, as one lost in the middle of a journey, who tries to discern the details of where he stands with only a faded map as reference.

~oOo~

When Crowley unfolds his long body out of his insufficiently cushioned seat and stretches, Aziraphale doesn’t realize right away that the bus has stopped, chases the squeal of its brakes in his sense memory. He has no idea how long he’s been checked out.

He rises after Crowley and follows him down the aisle, nodding to the thoroughly bewildered driver. Without thinking, he also miracles a substantial tip into the poor gent’s wallet, realizes only after he’s done it that no one’s keeping track of his good deeds anymore, and then finally decides he would have done it regardless of that fact. He smiles to himself.

Free will. What a thing.

The breeze tickles his cheeks as they step off the bus. It’s a cloudless night, a London miracle, and the stars above them are clearer than they have any right to be, given all the light pollution they’re dead center in the middle of. A dark sacred night, Aziraphale thinks, unbidden. You would never know the world almost ended a couple hours ago.

Except if you did know it, and Heavens, did Aziraphale know it. How close they came. And the danger is not quite past us. Heaven and Hell will be on our heels yet, with all the Divine Fury and Infernal Hellfire at their disposal.

The silence between them still unbroken, but quickly approaching critical mass, Crowley waves a hand and the front doors of his building’s lobby slide open on their too-quiet, frictionless tracts.

As the elevator whooshes them up to Crowley’s floor, the demon leans against the mirrored wall of the compartment and looks at Aziraphale like he can’t believe the angel is on his way up to his flat. Like he can’t believe he still exists at all.

The feeling, Aziraphale wants to assure him, is mutual.

Still, the angel ignores it as best he can, standing up straight and looking toward his own reflection, over his own shoulder.

Because even after today’s trials, all of Aziraphale still exists, including the part of him that has honed denial into an art form. The part that has always explained away every look, every word, every fleeting touch from Crowley as inconsequential, or as a wile to be thwarted, as a temptation to be resisted. The part that only listens to that Loud scared voice that screams at him every time Crowley smiles, or buys him lunch, or shares a good vintage, or brings flowers to his shop, or miracles a stain out of his clothes, or asks him to run away together.

That voice is still inside him, but there is also another. There has always been another voice, since Eden. It’s usually Quiet, but more insistent, and returns without fail, even after the Loud voice shouts it down. It whispers to him, hums in his soul, a counterpoint to the shrill of the Loud voice, harmony up against harshness.

Under their silences, the Quiet voice is much easier to hear.

But still – it’s quiet.

Crowley had spent a solid two hours today thinking that he was dead, as in dead dead, and he’d drunk himself into a near stupor because of it. The demon is an emotive drunk, but whenever Aziraphale has seen him well and truly sloshed, it has always involved yelling and weird faces and some amount of hissing.

This time had been different. As long as they both have lived in earthly bodies, Aziraphale has never seen Crowley’s lower lip wobble like that.

(I lost my best friend.)

It’s a good thing Crowley had been wearing his sunglasses, because if Aziraphale had actually seen the tears that he could hear in Crowley’s tremble of a voice, well. Suffice it to say, he’d be in quite a bit more of a scrape.

But anyone would get choked up about losing someone whose presence had been a constant for six millennia, the Loud voice insists, from very far away. By the time they get up to Crowley’s flat, he thinks, he won’t be able to hear it at all.

The angel’s hands itch, and he folds them behind his back as the lift rockets them up to the penthouse level. Well. At least he thinks they itch. He hasn’t felt an itch since that first time a mosquito bit him and he decided he’d turn off that particular sensation entirely. So what is this exactly? The pads of his fingers and his palms tingle as if they’re hungry to touch something. All of his senses crave. Anything.

No. Not anything. Specific things. He could put them in order, if he tried.

The want has been building since Adam had restored his body on nothing but a breath and a whim, exactly as he had been, down to the last stripe on his tartan bowtie, not an eyelash out of place. Since his second first blink, Aziraphale has wanted –

Well, everything, but the largest wants, in ascending order, are these:

Sushi from that tiny little restaurant where the chef knows me and calls me by name.

The Moonlight Sonata, on my record player at full volume – ooh – wait. Pavarotti’s rendition of ‘Nessun Dorma.’

A chilled glass of Clos d’Ambonnay, the first sip an incandescent, scintillating spill down my throat.

The humid, verdant air of Crowley’s plant atrium, swallowed deep into my lungs, the dirt and green and life so thick I can taste it.

The fiery gold and fathomless black of Crowley’s inhuman eyes flashing behind his sunglasses, the rare surprised blink I’d get if I were to remove them. Those dear cheeks, cradled in my palms just to prove I can, now. Crowley’s lithe form enfolded not just in my arms but in all of my softness. I wanted to do it right there on the tarmac, in front of God and the Devil and the Antichrist and everybody.

But there hadn’t been time.

There’s time now, and Aziraphale’s hands shake behind him as they exit the lift and he paces behind Crowley down the long hall, carpet muffling their footsteps. There is time and nothing that will come between them, at least not tonight. With every footfall, he feels his old habits dying horrible deaths, and it’s quite un-angelic of him, but he feels nothing but glee as they burn.

His hands want to know if Crowley feels it too. He wants to plaster himself against the demon’s back, wrap his arms around, feel him all over, each squeeze a reiteration, a Hallelujah chorus of still here, still here, still here.

The Loud Voice is silent, so silent, so blessedly not there, its vocal cords bitten out, swallowed, devoured by that same all-consuming desire.

The front door of Crowley’s flat closes behind them with a soft, final click that snaps Aziraphale out of his reverie. Crowley turns and faces him again, and –

Oh—

The way Crowley is still gazing at him, like his eyes are starving for him, desperate to take all of him in, spreads heat to Azirapahle’s cheeks, below his stomach, to his very fingertips. Oh, what a glorious thing it is, the blood that fills his veins! Every drop sings inside him, and the itch in his hands flares yet brighter. His loins stir with it, without him even giving them permission to do so. His fingers flex, just as involuntarily, behind his back.

“Wine?” Crowley finally shatters their silence to ask, his voice rough with disuse or fatigue or something else, and Aziraphale startles a little bit. He hesitates, shakes his head, not sure he’s got a full handle on himself yet. “Food then. I don’t think we’ll be able to get anything delivered, but we could miracle something up.”

“No,” Aziraphale insists before he can stop himself, and damn it, he’d been right; his own voice cracks right down the middle. “No, thank you,” he tries again. “That isn’t – I’m not…not hungry, I’m afraid.”

Crowley levels him an incredulous look. If he were a cartoon, his sunglasses would be sliding off his face.

“‘Not hungry?’ Angel, we just prevented Arma-fucking-geddon. Even I’m a bit peckish, and I only eat once a month.” Aziraphale bites his lip, bites back the words that want to come out, but Crowley sees it, as usual. His face goes softer, and Aziraphale can hardly bear it. “You don’t have to worry about your side seeing your Gluttony anymore. Even if they’re watching, you’ve got bigger issues.” He frowns then, a shadow going over that gentle mouth, and oh, Aziraphale hates that, wants the softness back. It might kill him, but that’s fine, let it. Just so long as Crowley never wears that face again. The face he makes when he whispers, low and terribly promising, “we both do.”

“Yes, I know. I…” the angel looks at the floor, brings his hands back to his front, clutches each with the other, stroking with one thumb in a semi-conscious effort to soothe himself. “I truly am not, though. Perhaps I’m the type to lose my appetite in times such as this.”

Well, that’s ludicrous, and they both know it. Aziraphale could choose to be hungry right now, if he wanted to. He doesn’t have to let his body decide for him, and yet that’s precisely what he’s doing.

Crowley scrutinizes him. It strikes Aziraphale how odd it is that they’re lingering in the entryway.

“Sleep, maybe?” Crowley tries. “I know you usually don’t, but—”

“Ah – no. Maybe a tad later.”

“Then – then music. You always played music in the shop, I’m sure I have a few records you like.” Crowley’s voice sounds like someone has it stretched to its breaking point on the rack, and is winding up to give it another turn. Aziraphale barely suppresses a sympathetic cringe.

“I appreciate the offer, but no, not that either.”

Crowley snaps like an overtaxed joint.

“For Heav – Hel – Somewhere’s sake, Angel! What do you want to do then? Stand here in the foyer and goggle at each other all night? You must want something!”

He isn’t yelling, but damn near. Aziraphale’s hands are on fucking fire.

He can’t do this.

“Can I—” he bursts, stops, overflows again. “Would it be too terribly forward of me to ask—”

This is so much. How can small words hold so much? Perhaps he can keep it in, after all. If the words can hold it, maybe he can too. Maybe he won’t crack and rupture.

“Angel.” By all rights, Crowley should sound annoyed, but all the angel can hear is concern and pleading.

“May I hold you?” There it is, exploding out of him without so much as a by-your-leave, and Aziraphale smacks his hands over his mouth like he’s just accidentally belched over dinner at the Ritz. Why, oh why do these bodies come with the ability to blush, and why hadn’t he turned that feature off? It’s so unnecessary. Now his hands and his face burn. Crowley is gaping at him, and that only makes matters worse.

Though…it feels nice, in its own way.

“What?” The demon’s voice comes out thin and weak, air escaping through the mostly-pinched neck of a balloon.

“I…” Aziraphale takes a breath, marshals himself. Stiff upper lip and all that. He isn’t English, not technically, but after over a thousand years of residency here, more than a few things have rubbed off. “I’ve never held you. I almost lost you, Crowley, without ever having held you. After today – after everything, really – I rather want to.”

Crowley’s jaw is still hanging open, but there’s the barest pink tinge coloring his cheeks, and that bolsters the angel’s courage even more. “That’s what I want most right now. May I, please?”

Crowley takes a step toward him, falters, almost retreats again. Closes his mouth, opens it, shuts it again. Swallows.

Nods.

“Yes.”

Even with permission, Aziraphale advances cautiously on the occasionally touch-skittish demon. With one, two, three, four, five careful steps, he is in Crowley’s personal space, and with one more, their chests and stomachs come almost flush, mere centimeters apart. The demon doesn’t breathe, holds himself as still as a deer in front of oncoming traffic. He slides his arms up beneath Crowley’s, wraps them around his slim chest, and reels him in, slowly enough that the taller being still has time to withdraw if he wants to.

But he doesn’t. He stays right where he is, letting Aziraphale bring them so close that nothing could fit between them.

Aziraphale tucks his chin on top of Crowley’s left shoulder with a relieved hum, gripping the fabric of his black jacket.

All the tension leaves Crowley’s body at once, departing him in a truly gargantuan exhalation that sounds like he’s been holding that particular breath for—

For centuries.

The demon’s arms at last come up to return his embrace. One settles around the back of his waist, and the other between his shoulder blades. Hesitating a moment, Crowley’s hand then skims up the back of his neck and lands at the base of his skull, his fingers tightening in a gentle grip around the curled locks it finds there. And best of all, Crowley rests his head against Aziraphale’s, breathes hot and steady and quick into his collar. His heart is a jackrabbit kicking out of his chest, and Aziraphale wonders absently if he always lets his heart hammer away like this when it wants to, or if his control over it has slipped, like his own has.

Crowley’s sunglasses dig into his temple, and he’s sure that the buttons on his waistcoat are poking the demon in his stomach, but he doesn’t care even a bit, and he would stake his wings on it that Crowley doesn’t either. Indeed, Crowley inhales sharply and holds him even closer, closer than the angel would have thought possible. It’s like he’s trying to absorb him into his body.

Which is not a terrifying thought.

He means to say, ‘that’s enough, now, I believe,’ except that’s not even a little bit true, so his lips filter out the lie and what comes out instead is:

“I kept thinking of things I’d never done.”

“Like thisss?” Crowley says into his hair, relaxed enough that his tongue lapses into its old sibilance, the hiss very subtle, but right in his ear. Aziraphale suppresses a shudder, knowing the other would mistake it for fear or revulsion when it is nothing of the kind. Instead, he nods, which results in him nuzzling Crowley’s long column of a neck. He doesn’t think he imagines the little hitch in the demon’s breath, the way his stomach muscles go tense.

“Like this. And all the places I’ve still never visited.” (With you.) “All the restaurants I’ve been meaning to try.” (With you.) “All the old books I’ve never read and all the records I’ve never listened to.” (That all remind me of you.) “All the sights and sounds and smells and flavors and feelings.” (Of you.) “The world, Crowley.” (You.)

“Were there world enough, and time,” whispers Crowley, and Aziraphale is sure that he’s not really meant to hear it, but goodness, at this range he can’t help it.

“Indeed,” he answers anyway, making Crowley startle. “It’s difficult not to want to start right this moment, I fear.”

Except I already have.

“Might have something to do with the fact that various occult forces are—”

“Occult and ethereal, Crowley.”

“Fine, yes, occult and ethereal, Angel. Very powerful figures of both flavors of celestial being are at this very moment plotting the best way to scrub the pair of us from existence,” Crowley almost snaps. “We’re staring down the barrel of total annihilation, here. I think I can forgive us a bit of urgency.”

You really can, can’t you. Exceptional demon that you are.

Aziraphale shivers in lieu of a proper response. Crowley’s using the same tone of voice, albeit quieter now, as he had during the imminent arrival of the King of Hell, only a few hours ago. Crowley thinks they’re doomed, even with Agnes’ last prophecy to help them.

Hope doesn’t come easily to the Fallen. There are some who would insist that it doesn’t come at all, but Aziraphale knows better than that. Knows Crowley better than that. The capacity for hope, for trust, for care, for love – angels do not lose any of these when they fall. The demon in his arms is living proof.

No. What they do lose, Aziraphale has long thought, is something a little (read: vastly, unfathomably, ineffably) more painful.

I’ll won’t be forgiven, not ever. Crowley’s voice echoes to him from one of the shallower wells of the angel’s deep, deep memory. Unforgivable, that’s what I am.

That’s what Crowely had said, but what he meant was, “I am unworthy of forgiveness. I am Not Worthy of hope, or care, or trust, or love. Maybe I was once, a long time ago, but not anymore.”

And yet, he’d still asked Aziraphale to run with him. Had dared to hope he would. And had done it again, before his ill-fated conversation with the Metatron. And again, once he found out that Aziraphale hadn’t been destroyed, just discorporated, had offered to come find him, to help him. And again, when they stood with Adam. And then again, when he’d invited Aziraphale to stay here.

You’re the strongest person I know, thinks Aziraphale. You think yourself unworthy of every Good Thing, and yet you still have them in you, after all this time, and over and over, you offer them to the world. To me.

Oh, how I love you.

All angelic miracles included, pulling away from Crowley, even slightly, is the hardest thing he’s ever done, but he needs to. He needs to look into Crowley’s eyes for what he’s about to say. He does, cradling the soft skin of his sharp face in his palms. Even in the dim lighting and with those damn sunglasses in the way, he can see those golden eyes widen.

“Listen to me. We are going to survive this. If there’s any urgency here, let it be from…” Aziraphale dithers, unsure of how to put it, unsure of how to even begin unraveling it all. So many tangles, so many twists and snarls. All these loose ends. Which one does he pull on to undo it all? How does one unclose a clenched fist with six thousand locked fingers?

Perhaps start with its single thumb?

“…from the freedom we have now. Freedom to reach for the things we’d denied ourselves before.”

As he says it, his voice trembles, and so do his hands, but this does not stop him from removing Crowley’s sunglasses. He sets them on a small table near the door. Crowley’s gaze goes straight down to their shoes, but Aziraphale tilts his chin back up with the gentlest force he can manage. His other hand still cups Crowley’s jaw, and his pulse stutters and gallops under his touch.

The demon stares like he’s never seen him before, like he’s just told Crowley he gave away his flaming sword again.

Which – well.

“I haven’t given you much reason to hope, my dear. But you keep finding ways to hope anyway. You always find them. You always find me. I rather think…” he tapers off to a near-whisper, and the way Crowley leans in doesn’t seem entirely voluntary. “I rather think that it’s high time I started returning the favor.”

Crowley’s eyes dart down, then back up to his eyes. His tongue flicks out to coat his lips. Unconsciously. His jaw works like he’s trying to dig out the words he needs from between his teeth.

“It’s not…” he manages, finally, “it’s not too fast?”

A breath escapes Aziraphale, some humor, mostly pain, pushed out of him. Like so many of his words, those ones had hurt them both.

But they hurt Crowley much worse.

The hand against that angular jaw slips around to hold the back of his neck. He pulls. Gentle, but unmistakable.

“Crowley,” he murmurs, then almost asks. But.

But he needs to break the habit of commanding Crowley to cross boundaries for him. For the both of them. Here seems like a good place to start.

“I’m going to kiss you now.”

There isn’t a word for the sound that comes out of Crowley when Aziraphale closes those last few inches, his eyelids dropping and his mouth parting the last thing Aziraphale sees before he closes his own eyes and presses their lips together.

Well, there is. A moan, a sob, a whimper. It’s just that it’s all of these, so it’s also none of them.

But Aziraphale isn’t thinking about that, any of it. He’s a little beyond that. Crowley kisses him back, and his thoughts dissolve like so much sugar in hot tea. The gentleness, oh good Lord the tenderness in Crowley’s touch when they come up to angle his face and deepen their contact, Crowley’s nose slotting in next to his as he moves his mouth soft and slow, introducing more heat and moisture with each caress.

Forget only his mind, Aziraphale’s whole body might be melting.

They pull apart, just an inch or two, just to process, just to breathe. Neither of them needs to, but it is what their bodies want, so they share oxygen, making the air between them humid. Crowley pants into his mouth, and when the angel opens his eyes, the demon stares openly at him, his golden irises just thin wedding bands around dilated black-hole pupils. They’re so close, catching their breath at the end of a dance, preparing for the next. After centuries of dancing near, around each other, finally they can dance together.

Aziraphale knows the Gavotte, but now he wants to learn a much older human dance. One of the very oldest there is. He wants to know what Crowley can do with those sinuous, serpentine hips, against him, inside him.

Crowley must see some hint of this in his eyes, or he must feel the instant that the angel dips his wingtips into Lust, because his whole face goes slack. His eyelids droop and lips open wider; all his features relax except his eyebrows, which bunch inward and upward, the way they would if he were holding back tears.

“Angel,” he breathes, reverent as anything, and oh, there is the Love, oh my stars there is so, so, so much of it, how on Earth did you keep this hidden from me all this time? How could I not have realized? Adam Young’s love for Tadfield is a flashlight next to this. Crowley. This is a lighthouse.

Crowley crosses the gulf for their second kiss, widening his mouth just enough that his tongue slips across Aziraphale’s bottom lip, a light sweep of wet heat that makes the angel gasp and tremble where he stands, before he leaps.

He opens up for Crowley, trusts his body to know what to do with the sheer want, the size of it staggering as it continues to uncoil within him, even as it tightens in his belly, between his hips. Tilting his head, he brushes the tip of his tongue with Crowley’s, savoring the whine it draws out of them both.

Even as their kissing grows deeper and more passionate, Crowley’s gentleness does not disappear. When his arms come down to pull their bodies flush once more, he does it so carefully that Aziraphale wants to sob, and maybe does, but the sound only softens Crowley further, the next stroke of his tongue like the whisper of a moth’s wing.

The love rolls off him in waves, so concentrated that Aziraphale’s knees go dangerously liquid and he has to cling to Crowley’s shoulders to stay upright. How did I keep this from myself? It may not have ever been this pure, this distilled, but – ah – perhaps that’s it.

This is how Crowley’s presence has always felt to him. Like he’s enfolded in warm, dark wings, like he’s swimming through the air on a humid summer evening, but he’s filled to the brim with light, as if he’d taken a bite out of a blazing pink and golden sunset and swallowed it down. Of course he wouldn’t be able to pinpoint a moment when he started to feel it – it’s been right here, right in front of him, right beside him, since the very Beginning.

His new awareness of it summons a ferocity within the angel. This has always been theirs, or it should have been, because it is right, and it is good. How could it not be? Aziraphale has had his moral compass stray away from Due North often enough to know, and that needle hasn’t so much as twitched.

Yes, it is theirs, and now that they have plucked it from the branch, Aziraphale wants nothing in the world more than he wants to sink his teeth into this experience, coat his tongue in its sweet nectar, fill his belly with it, devour it all the way down to the core.

So he will.

The distinction between ferocity and cruelty has never been lost on Aziraphale, and it isn’t now. He grips strong but not punishing where his hands come to rest at the edges of Crowley’s jaw, and the way he repositions the demon’s face brooks no argument but means no harm. And the slide of his tongue, finally, into Crowley’s mouth is all-affirming, confident but not conquering. He means not to dominate, not to subsume, but to invite. He wants Crowley to meet him here, to mix, to give each other everything, the way that he suspects they have always been meant to do.

The hands that shaped me shaped you, too, and they made us for each other. Where She gave me swells, She gave you hollows. I would stake my life that my fingers fit like keys into the spaces between your ribs.

I am part of you, and you are part of me.

Crowley. It’s yours. Take it, all of me, and give me all of you.

Crowley unleashes a groan that sidles right up to a growl and pokes its fingers through the fence. He responds in kind to Aziraphale’s passion, giving as good as he gets, the gentle slide between their tongues becoming a rougher, wetter drag.

Crowley’s eager hands roam his contours freely now, skimming over his arms, his sides, the curve of his rear (oh), his outer thighs. They remind Aziraphale of the animals once Noah let them off the Ark – how they gamboled about, stretching their legs, celebrating the joy of earth beneath feet, after so long adrift. Home, sweet home.

It’s only when Crowley’s hand cushions the back of his head to keep it from slamming into the stone entryway that Aziraphale registers that Crowley has backed him into the wall. Just like at Tadfield Manor a few days ago, he’s trapped exactly where he wants to be.

He thinks he should be revolted by the thread of saliva that remains between them when they pull apart again for more unnecessary breaths. But the sensation as it stretches and breaks, snapping back wet against his bottom lip, only sets the heat in his belly to boil, makes his hips jolt just once into Crowley’s, reflexively.

It’s a reminder that his body wants to take the reins, just for a while, which he has allowed before, with food and drink and manicures and music and massages, but never like this, never with sex. He’d kept iron-fingered control over it, every time it asked, each of the thousands of times Crowley had licked his lips to chase a stray droplet of wine.

But now, Crowley uses his grasp on his hair to tug his head to the side, and Aziraphale allows the noise that’s been in the back of his throat for six thousand years to escape into the air, as those lips and that tongue find his neck. Crowley whines in answer, grinding his pelvis hard enough into the angel that his backside is forced against the wall, and it’s so close to perfect. There – there’s the hint of sharp teeth, barely grazing his skin, so good, but he needs—

“More,” he hears himself say. “Crowley, please, please.”

“What isss it, Angel?”

“Your teeth, I—”

“Yessss?”

“I want you to – your teeth in my neck – bite me, Crowley, please bite me.”

Oh dear. This body is full to bursting with desire, more and far fiercer than he thought possible. There’s no way he’ll be able to get the lid back on all of it now.

But that’s all well and good, because I don’t want to.

Because it is good, so blessedly good, all of it – Crowley’s quick intake of breath through his teeth, a hiss that in any other context would sound like agony, the obscenely guttural, hitching moan that follows it, the jerk of Crowley’s hips against him, the rock-hard, aching proof of what their bodies want rolling against each other, the twitch and throb of them in the prison of their clothing.

Perhaps it’s a good thing they’ve held off for so long, not that it was by choice. But Aziraphale is a sucker for pleasure, always has been, and the hedonist in him will never be satisfied where Crowley is concerned. He wants to see and polish every facet of him, wants to know him from every angle. He wants there to be no part of his body that Crowley hasn’t stroked, kissed, licked, bitten, and the wants to return the favor a thousand fold. He wants.

Touch me. Know me. Take me. Have me. Keep me. Love me.

“Bite me,” he gasps. His voice is raw, unfiltered, abject need. It shivers, along with the rest of him, but the demon – his demon – somehow holds him steady despite his own trembling. “Crowley.”

“Angel. Aziraphale,” he whispers, right in his ear, before he licks fat across the soft patch at the juncture of neck, shoulder, and clavicle, tastes him, then sinks his teeth into the tender flesh. Not hard enough to break the skin, but certainly hard enough to raise a purple bruise beneath it.

Aziraphale sobs, swears he almost comes right then and there, isn’t sure what stops it from happening.

Crowley nips around the area where he’d first bitten, lighter bites that elicit soft whines and more twitches of his hips. His demon, ever considerate, offers a thigh, positioning it between Aziraphale’s legs for him to grind on. He does, gratefully, while Crowley sucks and laps at every bitten spot, both deepening and soothing the marks that have surely already appeared. Azirapahle’s vision spins a bit.

How in Heaven can humans stand this? How are they not doing this all the time?

“To be fair, most of them don’t wait six thousand years before they try snogging, Angel,” Crowley murmurs into his neck, sounding a little amused but mostly overwhelmed himself, hardly pausing in his effort to scatter hickeys of various shades all over his skin.

Dimly, Aziraphale realizes that Crowley had responded to a thought that he hadn’t actually spoken aloud, that Crowley didn’t seem to notice this. As unprecedented as that is, he shelves it away for later.

He never could put down a good book, not even in favor of another. And as loathe as he is to even pause right now—

“It is my understanding,” he begins, aiming for casual but failing miserably when the best he can do is breathless. “That things of this nature are generally done in a bedroom. In a bed. You have one, yes?”

Yes. Angel, are you--?”

“Yes, Crowley, I’m sure. If I stop being sure, I promise I’ll tell you. But please – take me to bed.”

They hardly make it, unable as they are to keep their hands off each other, but it ends up serving a purpose; by the time Crowley pushes him onto his back on top of his dark silk sheets, he’s down to his undergarments and his socks. Crowley himself now wears nothing but a tight pair of boxer briefs, thanks to Azirapahle’s (relatively unskilled but greedy) hands. He looks down and his mouth immediately goes dry at the sight of Crowley’s – his cock, so vulgar but it’s the only term that feels right in this context – of Crowley’s cock, completely hard just from kissing and a bit of clothed frottage, straining against the front seam of dark luxurious fabric. The flushed head of him peeks past the waistband, wet and eager. So base, so glorious.

Crowley makes quick work of his undershirt and socks, throwing them across the room, and wastes no time in fastening his mouth on Aziraphale’s neck again, not lingering there this time, but trailing kisses and licks down his chest until his mouth finds Aziraphale’s left nipple, which he teases with the tip of his tongue until it’s stiff and pebbled, then thoroughly bathes it with thick, generous licks. He gives the same treatment to its twin, rolling and pinching with his thumb and forefinger. His eyes are closed and he looks blissful, as if he’s the one being pleasured, as if he is the one leaking into his underwear.

Oh, fuck.

Aziraphale arches beneath him, his soft moans merging into a long, unbroken keen. He scoots backward up the bed so he can pull Crowley fully on top of himself, finding that he craves the weight of him. Crowley comes willingly, but can’t seem to settle on a place to leave his mouth. He shifts in a meandering route from his nipples, to his neck, to his jaw, to his ear, to his lips, and back through all the stops again, in reverse, working Aziraphale up so much with sucking kisses and tender bites, and he can hardly breathe.

With his hands gripping those slim hips, Aziraphale uses his leverage to begin a filthy, grinding rhythm. God Herself, the heat of him. Crowley’s cock is a searing brand, burns him straight through two layers of cotton.

Quite of their own volition, his fingertips edge under the waistband of those tight briefs. At the same time, he feels the teasing rub of those soft sheets against the top of his backside; they must have gotten exposed when he’d wriggled upward. He doesn’t know how Crowley notices this, as he seems far too preoccupied to glance down, but before he can think, the demon’s hands are working his underwear the rest of the way down his thighs.

Fair’s fair, and at the same time, he finishes the job his fingers had started. He takes Crowley’s waistband and divests him of the scanty garment with a maneuver only slightly gentler than a yank.

Each new part of this has floored him, but the slight of Crowley in his entirety bared to his gaze, the jumping, lustful line of his manhood against his lean stomach, the long descent of his body like the crash of a hot tidal wave over Aziraphale, the press of every inch of naked skin they have between the two of them – it makes his mind go almost utterly blank, the only two thoughts in his head Crowley and more on an endless broken-record loop. It’s so much, and for a second, he freezes in the enormity of it, his breathing and heartbeat just a tad too rapid for comfort. Crowley picks up on it instantly, retreats just enough to lock eyes with him, his expression searching.

“All right, Angel?”

“Yes,” he somehow manages. “It’s just – it’s a lot. I’ve never – I’ve never.” His cheeks, already red, heat even more with embarrassment. But Crowley, though he seems a little taken aback by the admission, just nods, considering. “It’s probably best if you, ah, drive. So to speak. At least this first time.”

“Whatever you want,” Crowley whispers, giving his lips a long, gentle, sipping kiss, slowing his breaths. As if by magic, Aziraphale’s hyperventilating stops, his pulse slows. As if they share a pair of lungs, a heart.

Crowley keeps at it for a good five minutes, just dipping his tongue into the angel’s mouth leisurely, his hands running up and down his sides, their bodies still aligned but keeping his pelvis still. When Aziraphale whines, needy, and starts to thrust up against him, he finally angles himself right and –

Oh sweet Lord.

Not knowing what else to do, he chances a glance at where their cocks rub each other, lined up perfectly now, sliding easily. He tosses his head into the pillow, his eyes rolling back at the pressure and the friction, so good, but he looks down again seconds later, can’t keep his eyes away, can’t believe how they look together.

The Effort he’s made is much thicker, a bit on the short side, where Crowley’s is just as long as the rest of him, although if it had been made to match exactly, Aziraphale thinks, it would be a smidge thinner. (Not that he’s complaining.) Just like his, the head is almost purple with blood and pulsing, dripping out a steady stream, like it’s crying to be touched more.

Quite unexpectedly, he’s rubbing the slit of Crowley’s cock with the pad of his thumb, swirling the drop of slick gathered there. He paints the head until it shines, presses just underneath the ridge on the underbelly of it. Crowley keens, stuttering his hips into Aziraphale’s hand, and the power of it fills the angel right to the brim with heat. He drips more as Aziraphale strokes him.

So wet for me. Oh God, to taste you, your salt and slick and warmth…

“I want to suck you,” he mumbles, almost to himself, but he’s startled when one of the demon’s hands flies up to his mouth and muffles a sudden, desperate moan. Then, it darts down to squeeze the base of his own cock, which jumps a few times in his grip while he gasps.

What--?

Fuck, that was close,” he hisses when the spasms pass. Aziraphale’s mouth drops open, and the pink in Crowley’s cheeks brightens, spreads to his entire face, even the tips of his ears. “Well, what d’you expect, saying stuff like that? There’s only so much this body can stand.”

“So…so you’d like me to?” Aziraphale presses, his mouth watering.

“Well. Broadly, yes. But maybe not…not now, Angel? I won’t last if you do.” As much as he’d wanted it, Aziraphale can’t find it in himself to be too disappointed. There’s always – “Next time. If we, you know…”

“We will.” He’s not sure of where his conviction is coming from, which, as an angel, is new for him. But it’s there just the same, rings clear to him even through the thick haze of arousal, fortifying him. “For now…” he grasps one of Crowley’s wrists and hitches his knees up so he can place the demon’s hand where he wants it. Virginal as he is, he knows how this works, has seen humans do it too many times to count. “Get me ready to take you. Open me up.”

A wounded sound whooshes out of Crowley like Aziraphale has just gut-punched him. He sees the moment of pause on the demon’s face when he almost asks him again whether he’s sure. But he catches himself, must see the answer in Aziraphale’s ravenous gaze.

“Can you,” the demon asks instead, falters, lifts one of Aziraphale’s legs, pressing behind his knee. With his other hand, he makes an inscrutable gesture that the angel nonetheless understands, so he loops one arm below that knee and pulls it farther toward his face, keeping it lifted, and Crowley pauses, stares, just breathes. There’s a breeze coming in through Crowley’s cracked bedroom window, and the cool air points out to him how exposed he is to Crowley’s gaze. The light from the lamps is low, but still, it hits him now how every inch, every soft bit of him is bare. He’s always rather liked this body, when certain archangels weren’t reminding him of how he was supposed to be fighting fit, supposed to be a soldier, but now he can’t help but wonder whether Crowley likes what he sees.

But before Aziraphale has time to start properly fretting, Crowley is murmuring, “so beautiful, Angel,” biting his lip, scanning the angel laid out below him, and Aziraphale feels like an entire feast, like the most delicious temptation. Then, Crowley leans down to pepper kisses all over where his body goes round; his stomach, his hips, his thighs. He pushes the other leg farther to the side, opening him up more, and slides down, teases each of his balls by bouncing them ever so lightly on his tongue, and—

Oh sweet, sweet God—

He starts with only one or two quick taps against Aziraphale’s rim, then presses his face between the cheeks, right in his seam, lapping firm and wet and noisy against his hole.

Even biting down hard enough to bleed on his bottom lip can’t muffle the noises, so Aziraphale stops trying and just wails into the air, the echo bouncing back at them from the ceiling.

This – this is exactly what he’d wanted, without even realizing it. Yes, he’d wanted Crowley’s mouth all over him, everywhere, but somehow it hadn’t crossed his mind that everywhere included this.

Mortifyingly, he can feel his tight furl loosen more with each smooth, soaked stroke of tongue, and when he dares a look down, his cock jumps at the sight that greets him: the demon’s eyes are closed, his brow relaxed, the half of his face below his nose buried below Aziraphale’s sac. Then, his dark red brows draw up and together, and he groans a puff of air against the angel’s arse. Aziraphale wonders at the change, a split second before the tip of the demon’s tongue breaches him.

Aziraphale howls, one hand fisting in the silk sheets, the other in Crowley’s damnably short hair (where are those long curls when he needs them?) rutting his hips downward to encourage each deepening incursion of that long, wicked appendage, as Crowley well and truly tongue-fucks him.

How could this possibly get better? He wonders, and then an answer comes from within his own head.

Oh, just you wait, Angel.

And he’s on fire, as the end of Crowley’s tongue splits in two inside him. He’s not sure how he can tell, but he can, and each of the two ends rubs mercilessly at a tender place deep inside him, filling him with electric warmth and aching. He’s throbbing from the inside, now, too, that spot crying out for more attention, ravenous now that it’s been awakened.

And he’s close, too close now, he needs –

“Need you,” he gasps, voice gone thin and thread. “Crowley. I need you inside me.” He’s all but begging and Crowley huffs out an odd sound, half a chuckle and half a whimper as he carefully withdraws his tongue.

“Gonna need you to take a few fingers first.” Rather than sounding like he regrets the delay, his tone actually reads as excitement. The bastard. Aziraphale should have known. They’re both too pent-up, too urgent for a proper tease, but bless if Crowley isn’t giving it the old college try.

“Fine, yes, just – please.

“You’re so gorgeous like this, Angel. Begging for me so nice and sweet. Don’t worry, I’ll give you what you need. I’ll give you everything.”

“Then give it! Damn it, Crowley, just f-aaaaahhh—”

He’s open and wet enough that Crowley manages two fingers right away, and he thrashes, thumping his head onto the pillow. He pushes his arse into Crowley’s hand, driving his fingers as deep as they can go, trying to get him to stroke over that spot – his prostate – again. Crowley obliges, but only to a point, and uses his free hand to grip around the base of Aziraphale’s lurching cock, making sure he doesn’t come.

Not yet, Aziraphale hears in his head, and isn’t sure whose thought it is.

The addition of a third finger has tears streaking down his temples and into his hair, the slight discomfort of the stretch drowning in the sea of his pleasure. When Crowley spreads his digits minutely within his tight channel, he rocks into it. A few more drives of his fingers and he’s gasping, gaping wide-eyed at the ceiling, Crowley hitting his sweet spot on every third stroke.

Aziraphale might honestly lose his mind from this. He’s so gone in it that when Crowley lets go of his cock to tilt his face forward, leaning over him, it takes him a series of moments to realize that his fingers have stilled inside him, and the demon has asked him something.

“What…?” he blinks, his voice rough, through the sensation of a free-fall.

“Christ, Angel,” Crowley breathes. “I’m sorry to stop but are you, are you okay? You seemed – far off.”

The gold of his irises makes the sun inside Aziraphale glow in answer. Black wings sweep around him, buffet him with eddies of warm air. He grounds himself in those slitted pupils, albeit dilated so much now they’re basically round. He takes a breath that feels anything but unnecessary, then another, smiles a shaky smile.

“I’m all right,” he whispers into those eyes, then, when that isn’t quite enough, “I’m here with you. I’m here. Thank you. Crowley. I…love you.”

Crowley’s aura flares then, so incandescent that the angel’s mind’s eye almost recoils from it, a light so bright that for just a single instant, it rivals the face in Aziraphale’s first memory.

“Aziraphale,” the demon says on an oath, “Go – Sa – Angel. I always – always.” He’s shaking, and goodness, Aziraphale isn’t surprised. He’s not sure how a body can contain what Crowley is radiating, what he can hear in the spaces between his words.

The words can’t hold it after all. But that’s all right, because the silence can, and does, always has. Aziraphale soothes soft touches up and down Crowley’s heaving sides.

“I know. I’m here,” he repeats, widens his legs yet more, pulls his demon toward him so they’re almost precisely lined up. “Make love to me, Crowley.”

Crowley nods, and blinks, and blinks, rests his forehead against Aziraphale’s as he eases his fingers out, making an apologetic noise when the angel whimpers at the drag of them leaving him.

He sighs, the fire inside him still thriving, just not burning straight through him, like before. Crowley sighs, too, right after, a bellows between them, their eyes open and connected as Crowley anoints himself with miraculous slick, the scent of it heady, suspiciously holy, and brings his tip to Aziraphale’s fluttering entrance.

There are thousands of cathedrals, synagogues, mosques, and temples in the world, and Aziraphale has been to a fair few of them. He has taken winding wordless paths up and down well-trodden stone stairs with their middles all worn down from countless footfalls over centuries. Each one whispers of familiarity, even when visiting for the first time. To step into one sanctuary is to step into them all.

When Crowley enters him, hot and slide and stretch and hard, the feeling is that feeling. Brand new and ancient, surprise and cherishing, silence and safety, all at once. All the millions of breaths Aziraphale has drawn in this body, and he doesn’t think he has ever filled his lungs this way, as he is filled. He will be full.

Halfway through the first push inward, Crowley takes his face in both hands and stares, gasping into his mouth as he slides home. Yes, his eyes say even as his mouth hangs soundlessly slack, yes.

But one can only hold a reverent silence for so long, which is sort of the point.

“Oh, Angel – oh, oh, oh – Aziraphale –”

His hips meet the angel’s backside as he bottoms out. He rolls a couple short, abortive thrusts into the body below him, probably involuntarily, because he then holds stock-still, stony as one of his statues, frozen as a gargoyle, letting Aziraphale adjust to the feeling of him. Of them.

Aziraphale closes his eyes, breathes into it, through it. The stretch is all pleasure but for a tiny bit that’s mere discomfort, and an even tinier sliver of actual pain, which actually makes it better. He wishes he could savor this, parse it out, but who knows what kind of timetable they’re on? (Just one entity, and She’s not talking.)

“Crowley, oh. Please, my darling, you can –”

“You’re sure? Doesn’t hurt?”

Yes – I mean, no, it doesn’t, just – please, move.

And Crowley does, using the power of his wings somehow, even though he hasn’t manifested them on this plane of reality. The first push is a possibility, the second stroke is a suggestion, and the third thrust is a revelation.

Ah! Again, right there, right there!”

“Here?” Crowley growls, repeating the movement exactly, getting the angle just right, and Aziraphale slaps the bed with one hand, hypoxic with the pleasure it gives him when Crowley’s cock hits just right, so deep, so good, again and again. It’s not the precision of his fingers, or his tongue, but the force he can put behind his thrusts this way, pinning that spot down, is nothing short of breathtaking.

“Yes,” he gasps out, and then he can’t stop. “Yes, yes, yes, yes, yes!”

It’s heavenly. It’s transcendent. His cells sing, every one. He can hear them, a choir of effusive pleasure, of divine ecstasy. He swears he can hear actual music.

Wait.

“Ah, ah, can I – ah! – Hear music?” He definitely can. Is that--?

“The Ode to Joy? I think so. I have – oh, fuck! I have a, mmmmm, a record player in the living room. Sorry, Angel, you’re so – I can’t – ahhhh – help it.” Crowley pants, rhythm not faltering in the least.

It’s definitely Beethoven, and it’s definitely his Ninth, and Aziraphale’s exalting laugh widens into a full-throated wail as Crowley begins to pound into him, pushing him up toward the headboard with each full-bodied thrust. He can’t stop the refrain of his voice, chanting in time with the chorus from the other room.

“Yes, yes, Crowley, just like that, oh darling, oh love, oh, oh, oh, oh fuck—!”

Crowley’s hips stutter, stop, pick right back up again, faster and stronger than before.

“Say that again, Angel, please…!”

Aziraphale wouldn’t pretend not to know what he means, even if he had the faculties to do so.

“Fuck, Crowley,” he whines. “Fuck me. Harder, please fuck me harder.”

If he could, he’d spare a thought for the angelically embarrassed flush that should take over his face at so wanton a repetition of so crass a word, but he can’t. Just as well.

Every so often during his very long tenure as an earthly existence, Aziraphale has brushed against what it must feel like to be human, and later (not now – again, he is quite occupied now) he will muse on how utterly countless are the ways he will get to feel human now. On how many ways there are to be human, and all of them are so glorious, so terrible, so beyond right, so beyond wrong.

But to reiterate once more: he does not think of these things now, he does not think at all, because he can’t, because—

“I’m going to come,” Crowley beats him to saying, and the breathless, sex-drunk slur of that beloved voice as it rushes past his ear, the image it evokes of Crowley spending inside him, makes Aziraphale arch, and then he screams as the resulting change in the direction of Crowley’s thrusts nails his prostate.

This pleasure is impossible. Aziraphale’s heart has never beat like this. He will die of this, he surely will.

But first, he’ll come.

“Me, me too – just.” He fumbles in the direction of his cock where it lays against his belly, red and twitching and neglected and leaking and so, so unbelievably hard. But Crowley proves faster than him yet again, as always, and sacrifices his grip on the angel’s leg so that he can pull at his cock with long, thorough strokes which contain absolutely zero finesse but the perfect amount of pressure.

How does he know? Aziraphale doesn’t wonder, because he’s far too busy with the quandary of how he can possibly roll into Crowley’s hand and onto his cock at the same time.

(He does, however, take a moment to decide that this is everything. Him and Crowley and whatever sensations they happen to be sharing. This is the world.)

“Aziraphale, I can’t, I’m—”

“Yes, yes, inside, I want you to!”

Crowley’s orgasm takes him with a snarl that he bites into Aziraphale’s neck as he spills hot and thick, all the way inside him. Later on, Aziraphale will wonder whether he should have worried about what his body’s reaction to demonic – er, essence – might have been. He will decide it would have been silly to do so. Their bodies, in the absence of any divine or infernal intervention to modify them, are only human. Semen is only semen, could no more have scorched him than Crowley’s saliva.

But now? Now, he keens at the teeth in his neck, the way Crowley pulses inside him, the liquid warmth filling him. So close, so close, please

Even though he must be oversensitive, overwhelmed to the point that his eyeteeth sink a little sharper into Aziraphale’s neck and his sawing breath is one long sustained hiss, Crowley keeps himself hard, still thrusts inside him, still strips his length with those rough, beautiful strokes.

Come for me, my Angel.

Aziraphale hurtles over the edge with Crowley’s name on his lips, comes so hard he swears it discorporates him, just for a moment, as his vision goes white, cock pumping warm and sticky between their bellies.

They fall to the mattress in a tangle of tingling limbs. Crowley is still on top of him, but even in his sated exhaustion, he will not let his full weight down. Can’t have that. Aziraphale uses the last of his strength to pull him to rest wholly against everything he has to offer. Crowley comes more than willingly, with a huff that is the love-child of a laugh and a sob.

They lie there and obey the whims of their lungs, panting into each other’s skin, the rhythm and their pulses synched, bodies still connected. They linger here as long as they can. Here, where they are a singular being: a four-armed, four legged, two-faced thing.

Thought and faculties return to Aziraphale in an unhurried drip, slow and sweet as honey. All his senses seem sharper as they broaden from their recent laser-focus. Though he’s putting no effort into noticing, he does.

He can smell the lush air that billows in from outside through the window, swears he can discern cigarette smoke and sizzling meat and the musk of bodies, humanity moving through the night, still teeming on the street stories below. And in the air of Crowley’s bedroom, the scent of the sex they’ve just had, so thick and heady that it sticks inside his nose, he can taste it in his throat. He can feel every drop of sweat on his body as it cools, dissipating the heat they’ve created. When he cracks open his eyes, the coppery red of Crowley’s hair has never shone more vivid, even in the low lamplight.

He caresses the expanse of Crowley’s back as their breathing ramps down, not minding in the slightest how soaked it is, or how his come has begun to dry between them, or how tender he feels as Crowley eases out of him.

Certain things, he thinks, his first coherent thought in what seems like ages, things that by all rights should be disgusting or unpleasant on their own, are quite rewarding, when one thinks of them as part of a holistic experience. Earnings of a job well done.

Because his sweat might be starting to make him all shivery, exposed as he is in the cool, fragrant air, and his come might be making that patch of skin itch vaguely, and he will surely feel a dull ache in all his muscles, some more than others, when he rises from this bed tomorrow morning, unless he wishes the pain away.

But Crowley is nuzzling and kissing the marks on his neck, and darting his long tongue out to catch the taste of salt, and Crowley is miracling a warm, damp flannel into his hand and shifting away just enough that he can wipe away their spend, first at his stomach and then between his cheeks, where seed has begun to leak out, still body-warm, and Crowley is coaxing his waist-locked legs into a more comfortable position, those clever hands soothing tension out of his thighs as he helps lower them back onto the sheets, and Crowley is resettling them so they’re half on their sides, still partially on top of Aziraphale, and drawing a blanket over them.

He won’t wish the ache away. He wouldn’t give up any of this, not for all the flaming swords in the world.

For the first time in many, many, many years, Aziraphale sleeps.

~oOo~

Awareness filters back to Aziraphale in a trickle, and he experiences the moments of disorientation that necessarily must result from waking up in an unfamiliar bed, when one is not generally given to sleeping in the first place.

But Crowley, the entire length of his back pressed to Aziraphale’s front from neck-nape to heel, one angelic arm slung snug around a demonic waist, keeps him from panicking. Oh, yes. He fits against him at every curve and dip, a worry stone for his entire body. In these slow breaths, there is more safety than there is in all the halls of Heaven. Here is home.

No one is going to take this from us.

He thinks it so fierce and so loud that it echoes through creation like a shout, and Crowley shudders in his arms, still mostly asleep. Aziraphale watches as the hairs on the back of the demon’s upper neck stand on end.

He wonders. Is it because Crowley has just enough divinity left in him, and can feel the love and righteous fury in it? Or because Aziraphale himself plays host to that perfect little spark of hellfire, and Crowley’s demonic nature is resonating with the possessiveness, the jealousy, the bloody-minded tinge that the sentiment also carries?

Perhaps it’s both, he muses as Crowley turns over, rubbing sleep-sand from bleary yellow eyes. A faint unguarded smile curls the corners of his mouth, before a wide yawn wipes it away. Or perhaps it is neither. Perhaps it’s because we are something else entirely, now. Or something close to it.

Crowley’s mouth stays open long after his yawn has passed, gawping at Aziraphale, suddenly full awake, and Aziraphale realizes.

“Oh, dear,” he sighs. “It’s still happening, isn’t it?”

“What – what is – still happening? What’s going on, Angel? Clue me in, I’m lost.”

“Yes, I thought as much. I could, ah. Hear a few stray thoughts of yours last night, and I believe you caught a few of mine, too. You didn’t notice it happening, though. Not, er. In the moment.”

Crowley closes his mouth, still staring. He opens it again, reconsiders, then,

“Why didn’t you say anything?” There’s no accusation in his tone, only genuine curiosity.

“I was rather in the moment too, my dear,” he murmurs, shyly refusing to break with Crowley’s unblinking, piercingly lovely gaze. “And I didn’t wish to interrupt it. I was quite – enjoying myself there.”

Heat blooms in him again as he watches color rise in Crowley’s cheeks, those thin pupils blowing as if they’re greedy to see as much of him as possible. Perhaps he’s reliving a highlight reel of last night, as the angel is?

“Yes, well – that, I erm. Did notice.” Crowley chokes out, and finds a spot on the wall somewhere over Aziraphale’s shoulder to stare at instead.

“Ahem. And you, also…?”

“Are you kidding, Angel?” Crowley’s eyes snap back to his, and Aziraphale has all the breath, all the words punched right out of him. Oh dear. He bites his lip, looking away. His cheeks flush for a completely different reason, now, arousal transmuting into shame in a flash. What can he say?

“I-I know I was fumbling, but I’ll get better with time, if you’re willing to be patient with me. I’m just – untried, is all. I’m sor—”

Angel. Aziraphale, stop.” Crowley cuts him off, soft but steely, and he makes Aziraphale look at him with one palm against his jaw. “Last night was, hands down, the best thing that has ever happened to me, and if you apologize for it, then I don’t know what I’ll do.”

Then he grimaces at himself as if the aftertaste of the words displeases his palate, and Aziraphale has to chuckle, despite himself. Crowley never did go in for sweet things.

“Thank you,” he says on a reverent breath, and leans in to kiss the scowl off his demon’s face, reveling in his amazement that he can do so, astounded at the readiness of Crowley’s lush lips moving against his, astonished at the ease with which that hot, excited tension builds between them once more.

This is exactly the kind of moment Aziraphale never wants to interrupt. But regrettably, this time he must, to make sure they can keep having these moments, as many as they want.

“I have an idea,” he tells Crowley once he’s broken their kiss, “about what Agnes’ last prophecy means. About what we must do.”

Crowley’s focus on him sharpens, as much ferocity as apprehension in him, now. Like Aziraphale, he’s spoiling for a fight, will protect this delicate, robust, new, ancient thing between them, with all ten nails and every single one of his teeth.

“Lay it on me.”

“Afterwards, darling.” Crowley’s sputter and blush pleases the angel to no end, but he can’t dwell on it, not now at least. “Well. It’s definitely unorthodox, and I think I may even safely say it’s unprecedented, so even though they know we’re – working together, as it were, they shouldn’t suspect a thing. But even so – it’s risky.”

The serpent of Eden flashes his signature snakelike smirk. Oh dear. Aziraphale is so terribly fond of him.

“I wouldn’t have it any other way.”

“Right. Do you remember our conversation in the pub, yesterday? Specifically, the bit about ‘receptive bodies?’”

“Barely, I was sloshed,” Crowley frowns as he dredges up the memory. “You said it was too bad you couldn’t inhabit mine, and – oh. Oh.”

“Yes.”

“But – but you also said – what about the –?” Crowley makes a flourished, explosive gesture with both hands.

“Ah. That. Well, something occurred to me. If…” he falters, but Crowley’s unusually patient gaze and his encouraging hand on his arm galvanize him. “If any old demon and any old angel tried it, I’m sure they’d both find themselves quite readily and messily discorporated. But you and I – that is to say. I believe we would fare just fine.”

The demon blinks. Aziraphale is sure he’s seen him do so more in the last twelve hours than in the entirety of their acquaintance.

“Now, I know it’s quite a lot to gamble on nothing more than faith. Or on a hunch, if you like. But we don’t exactly have a lot of options,” he adds when Crowley’s silence lasts a few beats too long.

“No – it’s. I think you’re right,” Crowley whispers, so quiet that even angelic ears strain to catch his words. He touches one hand to his chest, then – oh – lays that same hand against Aziraphale’s heart, which gives a heavy, startled thud, as if he’d passed an electric shock through his palm. The angel is certain that Crowley doesn’t fully register that he’s done it. “Common sense says we’d end up redecorating this bedroom in an incredibly macabre yet efficient way. But I somehow don’t think that’ll happen.” He holds his eyes, the expression in them indescribable. “Couldn’t tell you why.”

Aziraphale takes his hand, pulls it up to his mouth, kisses the inner wrist, the center of his palm, the crest of each knuckle.

“Perhaps,” he offers, “it’s…just one of those things.”

He leaves the word – that loved, hated, unspeakable word – unspoken, but he can see by the crinkles at the corners of Crowley’s eyes and the twitches in his cheeks that the demon hears it anyway.

“Yes,” Crowley agrees, rather charitably if Aziraphale does say so. “Perhaps it is, at that.”

~oOo~

Maintaining himself isn’t as difficult when they trade back, not in the technical sense. He already did it once, after all.

But in the emotional sense? There’s a point in the middle of the process where they are exactly half of each other, and letting it pass goes against every instinct he has. They’re part of each other. Why shouldn’t their bodies reflect that fact? Old married couples start to look like each other for a reason.

Ah, but then they couldn’t do things together, not the same way at least. They couldn’t enjoy tea or coffee or lunch or dinner or quite extraordinary amounts of alcohol.

Or sex. They’ve only just begun with that one.

When they eventually must abandon these bodies, hopefully millennia from now, no matter how far apart this might fling them, Aziraphale knows that Crowley will find him. Will follow the darkness-rending beam of that lighthouse inside him and cross as many lines, as many walls of fire, as many universes as he has to, and bring them together, to be inside each other once more, for good this time.

(Eternity as a concept had never really appealed to Aziraphale. It’s one of many things he knew he’d have an un-angelic opinion on, so he’d spared himself the cognitive dissonance by thinking of it as little as possible. So, he’s quite taken aback to discover that specific kind of forever would suit him just fine.)

But for now? Distinction and delineation will serve, and very well at that. Earthly pleasures beyond counting await them.

So they go to the Ritz, and they have that Clos d’Ambonnay, which their server is quite astonished to have pointed out to him on the menu, and lunch which is not sushi, but that can wait until dinner, and afterwards a sampler of every dessert that’s on the menu and also a few that aren’t, and Aziraphale really will have to tell Crowley to leave a good tip for the poor lad, and coffee, and more champagne, and conversation peppered with smiling silences, which is the best part of it all by far.

And they hold hands on the way back to Aziraphale’s bookshop, and no one can say anything about it.

~oOo~