Chapter 1: Chapter 1
On the day following the apocawasn’t, Crowley and Aziraphale began to explore the possibilities of their new life, on their own “side”. And one of these new freedoms, they decided, included that of moving in together. Although they’d not quite said ‘I love you’, they certainly felt it for one another, and that had seemed like enough.
But now, Aziraphale could sense the luminous yellow eyes fixed upon him as he lazed in his cozy, overstuffed tartan armchair across the front room of the South Downs cottage he and Crowley had miracled into suitability for their respective tastes.
“Crowley, dear, was there something on your mind? It’s just, well, you seem to be staring rather intently...”
Crowley, for his part, was sprawled across an ornate black couch with large shimmering red studs which looked suspiciously like miracled rubies lining the edges. He hadn’t noticed the angel noticing his piercing gaze, thinking Aziraphale too engrossed in the frayed antique book he’d been reading to consider Crowley’s whereabouts.
“Ah, yes, well, angel, the thing is... the thing issss...” Crowley hissed as he fought to get out the words he’d already resolved to say. Although he knew he sounded drunk anyway, he was actually completely sober, as he’d intended to be when he finally made this particular declaration, “I love you. I knew I loved you all the way back in the Garden. And I’ve tried, I have, but I can’t just keep not saying it, I can’t. I know I’m a demon, and I know that in addition to being unforgivable, I’m unloveable. I am, and it’s fine, and I’m fine, and you can’t love me back, but I had to say it, so now it’s said.”
Had Crowley not averted his gaze immediately, wishing to avoid the look of utter rejection he was certain he would receive, he would have seen just how wrong his perceptions were. Aziraphale’s face betrayed nothing but a look of realization. Realization that Crowley had feelings for him, realization that it meant his own feelings were, in fact, reciprocated, and realization that Crowley had utterly no clue that this was the case.
Softly, as was Aziraphale’s nature, he lifted himself off the armchair and shuffled lightly over to Crowley, as though the demon (his demon, his demon whom he loved very much) might bolt. Slowly, Aziraphale placed one gentle hand on Crowley’s thin shoulder and the other on the demon’s angular face, soothingly stroking the high cheekbone there.
When Crowley’s serpentine eyes finally, reluctantly, met his, Aziraphale looked at him more adoringly than he had perhaps ever looked at anything before.
“Crowley, dearest, how you could ever think that you are not lovable is beyond comprehension. And how you could ever feel like I am incapable of loving you, well, it’s the daftest thing I’ve ever heard. I may not have realized my feelings quite as quickly as you did, my dear, but they were always there. I am a being of love, Crowley, and you are most certainly not unlovable, because I love you.”
A lingering moment of stunned silence followed as Crowley considered Aziraphale’s own declaration, and then...
“I said ‘too’. You love me too. I said it first, angel.”
“Yes, I suppose you did. Although I rather think I said it better, my dear.”
Crowley teasingly scoffed at that, then smirked and nodded his agreement.
In celebration of what had altogether been a pleasant start to the rest of eternity, Crowley was (easily, as always) able to tempt Aziraphale into a dinner of crepes and expensive wine. Crowley, for his part, stuck to his usual black coffee and alcohol routine, while Aziraphale tucked in to no fewer than five of the crepe varieties from the extensive menu.
It struck Aziraphale about two thirds of the way through his meal that Crowley spent most of their time dining peering intently at him, at his food, at his mouth, and at his food as it went into his mouth. He momentarily considered whether Crowley simply had a distaste for human food, or if there might be a deeper reason for his aversion to eating. How anyone could have a distaste for the glorious creation that was human cooking was incomprehensible to Aziraphale, that much was for certain.
He looked quizzically at Crowley, then tried, “We are celebrating, my dear boy, I must insist you try some of my creep suzette. It’s simply divine, and I should know.”
A genuine smile formed on Crowley’s lips at Aziraphale’s small joke. His angel really was adorable. Adorable, and blissfully unaware of the metaphorical demons that haunted his literal one. Crowley only hoped he could keep it that way.
“Oh angel, you like that kind of stuff, not me. Believe me, I get my pleasure just watching how happy it makes you. That’s all I need.”
“Well, I wouldn’t want to deny you your pleasure, in that case.” Aziraphale never did take much convincing when it came to finishing a plate, particularly not one overflowing with carbs and powdered sugar. For this reason, Crowley decided to regard his successful avoidance of the food offered as a mutual win.
Back home later that evening, Aziraphale anxiously studied his reflection as he readied himself for the first time he’d share a bed with his love.
Angels didn’t need to sleep, per se, and Aziraphale had never really adopted this human tradition in the past, but Crowley seemed to enjoy the ritual of sleeping. And if Crowley wanted to sleep, and wanted to sleep next to Aziraphale, then Aziraphale would happily lay awake next to him all night, every night, forever.
Angels also didn’t ‘need’ to eat, per se. They could, theoretically, miracle their corporations into a “perfect” homeostasis continually and never require sustenance. Moreover, even if they didn’t bother to or didn’t feel right about miracling their form, it would still take an incredibly long time of overindulgence for extra weight to appear. Whereas humans gained and lost weight quite quickly, and could become ill by doing too much of either in certain cases, it would take millennia to even notice constant decadence on the part of an angel.
Unfortunately, millennia was exactly what Aziraphale had. Six of them, to be precise. He’d enjoyed the food in every single one. And now he found himself, post crepe indulgence, pawing the gut that Gabriel had previously scolded him for as he appraised his naked form in the mirror. Yes, the centuries had most definitely begun to creep up on him and seemed to settle themselves heavily and disappointingly around his midsection.
Crowley always looked so perfect, so put together. Aziraphale only hoped he wouldn’t lose his love when the demon finally saw all of his unsightly softness. He miracled himself a pair of tartan pajama bottoms and steadied himself with a deep breath before exiting the bathroom. He was, admittedly, a little taken aback by the sight that met him.
Crowley lay on his back in their king sized bed, a pair of black silk pajama bottoms tied around his waist, highlighting where his hipbones jutted out. His waist, too, dipped in underneath the ribs giving him an overall concave appearance. Aziraphale tried to reason with himself that, of course, laying on one’s back would accentuate an already slim figure, but he couldn’t deny that Crowley’s corporation didn’t look entirely well.
When they’d done the body swap in an effort to thwart heaven, hell, and their impending demise, Aziraphale had been far too modest to sneak any peeks at a shirtless Crowley. He was an angel, after all, and that wouldn’t have felt decent. So he was surprised, and moderately concerned, seeing for the first time just how frightfully thin his demon was.
“Coming to bed, angel?” Crowley drawled and motioned for the angel to join him.
“Yes, I rather think I shall.” Aziraphale smiled warily as he moved across the room and into the large bed. Crowley had liked the dark coloring of its mahogany wood, and Aziraphale had liked the fancy canopy top.
Crowley rolled over as Aziraphale slid into bed behind him, drawing Aziraphale in closer to spoon him until the notches of his spine were flush with Aziraphale’s portly stomach. Aziraphale melted into the cuddle and instinctively wrapped his arms around Crowley. Although he was terribly self conscious about how flabby his gut must feel against Crowley’s bony back, he had no intention of pulling away.
Crowley was incredibly relieved that, at least for now, it appeared that Aziraphale assumed he miracled his form to look like this. It was better if Aziraphale assumed that, less questions and complications.
In actuality Crowley had done much the same, yet opposite, thing Aziraphale had. Although he did enjoy changing his hair and clothes more often than Aziraphale, he had never had the desire to miracle his corporation into perfect health. Truth be told, he liked the effects that millennia of starvation had on his form. Certainly they’d been less drastic than on, say, a human. But just like Aziraphale had begun to show extra weight over many centuries, Crowley had begun to look more gaunt than he should.
At first, Crowley hadn’t eaten and hadn’t miracled his corporal form into homeostasis out of a sort of punishment, a self loathing after the fall. He had liked food in heaven. He remembered how good it had been for quite a while. And then it wasn’t as good, and he’d begun hanging around with the wrong people, and asking questions. And then he sauntered downward.
Early on, he just hadn’t felt any desire to miracle the sustenance into his body in order to keep it healthy without eating, as most angels and demons do. And the thought of actually eating had made him physically ill, as the emotional turmoil attached to it was unbearable. No, he didn’t deserve food, and he didn’t deserve to waste miracles keeping his body healthy in its absence either. Emptiness had made him feel pure, and closer to the God he was cast away from.
As the millennia ticked by, however, he’d found that his motivations made a curious shift. After a thousand, maybe two thousand, years the physical repercussions started to become more visible. Crowley had been slim to start and had a naturally narrow bone structure, but he’d felt an inexplicable rush of excitement as his collarbone became increasingly sharp, and his ribs began to stick out grotesquely from his chest and back.
He wished he still could still see avoiding food as punishment, and avoiding miracling his body healthy as a form of penance, but he didn’t. Now, he just saw it as beautiful, as victorious, as a goal. But Aziraphale didn’t need to know that, it would only upset him and Crowley couldn’t bear to upset his sweet, perfect angel.
“You’re warm, feelsss nice, ‘m usually ssso cold” Crowley allowed his natural hiss to come out as he relaxed in the comfort of Aziraphale’s chubby arms.
“Yes, well, I’ve got quite a great deal more padding than you... the humans seem to benefit, heat wise, from having some body fat, dearest. Perhaps they don’t need quite so much as I have...” Aziraphale paused, considering with a pit in his stomach whether he should finish his thought or not, “but you don’t appear to have any at all, darling. You’re bone thin. It’s no great wonder that you’re terribly cold all the time.”
The words hung in the air for what felt like a long while, but was perhaps 30 seconds in reality. Crowley felt his heart racing, frantically thinking of ways to deflect this conversation as quickly and effectively as possible.
“I was a snake, remember, angel? Snakes are cold blooded.” Crowley shrugged, hoping his cool headed (pun intended) response would effectively appease Aziraphale for the time being. It seemed to.
“Right, of course, I’m being silly. Well, then I shall hold you extra close while you sleep, my dear serpent.”
“Goodnight, my beautiful angel.”
Although Crowley couldn’t see it, Aziraphale winced at his use of the word ‘beautiful’. Aziraphale lay there, long after Crowley had succumbed to slumber, thinking about just how not beautiful he was. How his pudgy belly rested up against his slim partner. Aziraphale imagined Crowley being disgusted by his extra weight, but being too nice (even if he hated that word) of a demon to say anything about it.
Aziraphale was sure of one thing, there was no way Crowley could really think he was beautiful. Aziraphale reasoned that Crowley was willing to put up with Aziraphale’s rather loathsome figure only because he loved him, not because he was physically attracted to him. It occurred to Aziraphale that evening, as his thumb subconsciously stroked the hills and valleys of his lover’s protruding rib cage, that perhaps he should heed Gabriel’s admonishment and ‘lose the gut’.
Chapter 2: Chapter 2
- I tend to write in kind of “scenes” so this chapter is a little shorter but like I say, the fic will be a slow burn.
- Heavy (no pun intended) warning for eating disordered thoughts and behaviors. Also warning for brief kissing (not sure if that requires warning, but hey, better safe than sorry).
- Again, this is just me writing based on how my own experience has been with Anorexia/bulimia and body issues. I’m applying it to these characters because I love them even more than myself, and it’s helpful for me to be able to relate it to them.
As Crowley stirred from his sleep the following morning, he was surprised to feel the comforting weight of Aziraphale’s arm still firmly wrapped around him. Crowley had rather assumed the angel would’ve left to read a book or something after he’d fallen asleep. After all, Aziraphale had made it clear that he didn’t really care for this particular human ritual. A small part of Crowley worried the angel might’ve felt unnecessarily obligated to stay with him, but a much larger part of was just grateful that, for whatever reason, he had.
It was nice, waking up in Aziraphale’s arms. Crowley had imagined what it might feel like for centuries, but had never really dared to let himself hope it would happen. Now that his fantasy had become a reality, he took a moment to savor the feeling.
Aziraphale was even softer than Crowley had imagined, and he wanted to melt into the gentle curves of the angel’s body. The way Aziraphale cushioned everything hard and filled everything hollow on him was all Crowley had ever wanted. It felt like home. It felt like heaven. Not the bureaucratic, corporate, sterile heaven that Gabriel ran, but the heaven that Crowley had once known, the comfortable and warm part of it closest to God herself. That’s what Aziraphale felt like, perfection.
“Good morning, dear, how’d you sleep?” Aziraphale had clearly caught on that he’d awoken and now interrupted his thoughts.
“Uh, yeah, good. You stayed here all night? You didn’t have to, angel...”
“I wanted to.”
“Yes. Should I have gone?” Aziraphale momentarily wondered if Crowley had perhaps not wanted him to stay.
“No... well, yes... I mean no, no of course not, not on my behalf. But yes if you didn’t want to stay with me I would’ve understood. I mean I’m... but I’m glad you did. I’m really happy you did.”
Six thousand years of pining and waiting for Aziraphale had made finally being together both incredibly joyous and terrifying for Crowley. He didn’t think he could bear living without the angel ever again, which was causing him to tread rather carefully until he figured out what truly made his angel happy. The smile on Aziraphale’s face following the last sentences of Crowley’s rant said everything it needed to in response, so instead Aziraphale just suggested,
“I was thinking a picnic today dear, maybe enjoy our first non-clandestine afternoon in a park together.”
The very edges of Crowley’s mouth formed a tiny smile of approval at that. Aziraphale’s eyes were glistening in the morning light, and his baby blonde curls shone like an actual halo. Crowley prayed he hadn’t misread any signals as he did something even he wasn’t fully prepared for.
Crowley set his jaw and looked Aziraphale right in his stunning hazel eyes. Crowley knew his own were in full blown snake mode, completely unbridled in his current state of arousal. He delicately combed his slender fingers through the angel’s hair while edging his face closer to Aziraphale’s until he could feel the angel’s breath on his cheek. They were so close, and Aziraphale had yet to pull away or stop him, so Crowley lightly pressed his lips against his lovers. The rush of relief Crowley felt at the pressure of Aziraphale’s mouth reciprocating his affections was overwhelming, to put it mildly. Their mouths explored one another, first slowly and gingerly, then deeper and more passionately until Crowley finally pulled Aziraphale on top of him.
Aziraphale had seemed to enjoy everything up until that moment, but the kiss quickly broke and Aziraphale rather hurriedly excused himself to the bathroom, leaving Crowley confused and guilt ridden. Crowley hadn’t meant to go too fast for the angel, he’d thought it was what they both wanted, but perhaps he was being selfish. He was a demon, after all, so he supposed selfish was a thing he could definitely be.
Crowley got up and stared at his reflection in the wardrobe mirror. His mind raced with thoughts of how worthless he was for having put Aziraphale in a position that made him uncomfortable. He chastised himself for forcing a physical kiss onto an actual angel, of all things. How disgusting could he be? He couldn’t imagine what Aziraphale could love in him, he was fallen, a reject.
Then, Crowley began one of a very few rituals that could truly calm him in moments like these. He counted. He counted each of his ribs, several times over. He ran his fingers along every one, feeling an unmistakable ecstasy each time his bony finger would dip into the sunken space between them. His fingers ghosted over his sharp collarbone, and he shivered with delight at how delicate and pronounced it had become. His legs had always been one of his prized features, particularly because he’d had what humans called a “thigh gap” long before it became fashionable. The gap between them seemed more apparent than usual, and his knees looked even bonier now, Crowley observed with a twisted sense of pride. Perhaps the exorbitant amount of stress of the previous few weeks had caused his corporal form to lose a bit more weight at a quicker speed that usual. That was a tantalizing thought.
Still, Crowley knew there was room for improvement, little areas where he could afford to lose a few more pounds. Some part of him knew it was sick and distorted to have purposefully starved himself to this level, to allow his corporation to become so malnourished, despite not being able to “die” from the starvation like a human might. But another part of him craved a look that could only be described as skeletal, and as emaciated. He was fallen, and rejected, and worthless, and unforgivable, and many many other horrible things. Aziraphale deserved better than him, so much better. But if Crowley just kept getting a bit thinner, if he could just see a few more bones, a few sharper edges, then maybe someday he could be at least one good thing. Maybe someday he’d be so thin he could at least be beautiful.
Meanwhile in the bathroom, Aziraphale felt absolutely dreadful about having put such an abrupt end to the first real act of intimacy between him and his partner. It had all been going fine. Better than fine. It had been one of the purest joys of Aziraphale’s life, and he’d never wanted it to end.
But when Crowley pulled the angel on top of him, something inside Aziraphale had snapped. Or, rather, Aziraphale feared something would snap, that something being Crowley underneath his weight. It had gone from being the best moment of Aziraphale’s notably long life, to the most self-conscious he’d ever felt in under 10 seconds. Why his supermodel thin demon boyfriend would ever want Aziraphale’s tubby angel gut to crush him was beyond understanding. Maybe Crowley got off on the danger, Aziraphale mused contemptuously, knowing that the fatass angel might break his twiggy demonic corporation at any moment.
Aziraphale immediately regretted having such nasty thoughts about Crowley. He knew that Crowley loved him, that much was clear. None of this was Crowley’s fault. Aziraphale had made himself this grotesquely fat, and he could only blame himself for the centuries of overindulging. Truth be told, however, Aziraphale wasn’t jealous or envious of Crowley’s body either. Rather, when he thought about it, he felt genuinely worried for the demon he’d fallen in love with. Crowley had always been slender, yes, but now it appeared that words like frail and gaunt were better descriptors.
In any case, Aziraphale could hardly worry too much about Crowley when he had his own disappointing form to deal with. An angel who had let himself go, how utterly pathetic. Gabriel’s words, ‘lose the gut,’ still rung in his mind, making him feel sick to his stomach. Perhaps, in fact, that wasn’t such a bad idea. Obviously the part about losing the gut, yes... but the other one too. The bit about feeling sick.
Crowley would become upset if Aziraphale just stopped eating, he’d know immediately that something was wrong with his angel. Even if they didn’t specifically need to eat to survive and could just miracle themselves to be sustained, Crowley understood how much Aziraphale loved to eat and the angel knew he’d get too many questions to get very far trying to avoid food altogether. Perhaps, however, he could get rid of the food some other way.
Aziraphale had been on earth long enough to be familiar with most human rituals and behaviors, even if he didn’t engage in many. Still, he was not unaware that a certain subset of the humans engaged in something called purging, where they apparently forced themselves to vomit after eating in an effort to lose (or at least not gain) weight. Aziraphale was certainly aware that this practice was not strictly ‘healthy’, but then, angels couldn’t die as such, and it’s effects would have far fewer consequences on his body that the humans.
Aziraphale studied his body one final time in the bathroom mirror, the creamy flesh of his tummy staring revoltingly back at him. If Crowley wanted to have sex at some point, or even wanted to kiss like that again, Aziraphale knew he had to get rid of the extra pounds piled unattractively around his middle. It was unsightly, and Crowley deserved better. Aziraphale would be better for Crowley. Yes, Aziraphale resolved, perhaps after the picnic later he would give this “being sick” thing a try.
Chapter 3: Chapter 3
- Whew, okay... this chapter is a bit longer again... starts pleasantly enough, but gets very dark and angsty.
-As always, please heed tagged potential triggers and be safe and kind to yourself. Warnings for eating disordered thoughts and behaviors.
-Again, this is me projecting my issues onto characters I love. Nearly every thought in this whole story is one I’ve had myself at some point (both, but particularly Crowley’s inner monologues, that’s pretty much me to myself all the time). Writing this and applying it to these particular characters is just cathartic for me.
- I’ll try to update at least every few days so if you’re reading and liking this, thank you sooooo so much and I love you and updates are coming.
It was amazing how one noticed the beauty of a park far more vividly when one was not busy averting an impending apocalypse, Aziraphale silently mused. Indeed, it seemed an unusually temperate day, and the park was bustling with life. Aziraphale liked the way Crowley’s fiery locks seemed to glow in the sunlight, and he tried not to let his eyes linger too long as the pair made their way to a shaded and more sparsely populated corner of the park.
The kiss debacle from earlier in the morning had made things uncomfortable since, but both Crowley and Aziraphale wanted desperately to avoid the subject, so each awkwardly pretended as if they’d forgotten about it completely. They both knew each other far to well to buy into the other’s act, but they seemed to, silently, mutually agree to play along.
After the food, which consisted of baguettes, cheeses, grapes, and (because Aziraphale was never without dessert) chocolate mousse, was unpacked Aziraphale took out a bottle of wine and began pouring two glasses.
“I’m in the mood for coffee, Angel.” Crowley stated flatly, snapping his fingers and conjuring up a black coffee.
“Oh. Very well.” Although he was slightly miffed that Crowley didn’t seem to be trying as hard to move past their incident from the morning, Aziraphale resolved to let it go.
After all, Aziraphale considered, it had been his own fault... if he hadn’t been so fat, he wouldn’t have felt so self-conscious, and they’d have gotten to finish their kiss and... well, whatever else might’ve followed. Aziraphale didn’t want to think about that. Well, he DID want to think about it, but not now, not in his current state. No, he’d think about it once he’d lost that disgusting gut Gabriel had made him so painfully aware of. For the first time since being on the planet Earth, Aziraphale was looking forward to getting the meal over with so he could proceed with regurgitating it as quickly as possible.
Crowley didn’t notice the angel fretting, he was too lost in his own thoughts. He’d never really thought twice about consuming alcohol before, but for some reason it didn’t even seem like an option today. Black coffee was supposed to be an appetite suppressant, and that sounded much more appealing. Not that he had much of an appetite to suppress in the first place, but it still couldn’t hurt. He’d also read somewhere that caffeine could accelerate weight loss by speeding up human metabolisms, but he’d no idea whether it had any effect on a supernatural corporation. Still, again, it certainly couldn’t hurt to try. It had to be better than alcohol. It seemed a such pity, he enjoyed getting drunk, but he resolved that he’d reward himself with a drink when (if) he eventually reached that utopia of thinness he wanted so desperately.
“Crowley, dear, you love me... yes?” Aziraphale posed midway through the meal.
“Yes, angel. I thought I’d made it clear. If this is about this morning, I’m sorry. I really am, I...”
“No, it’s not that. Do you believe me now when I tell you that I love you also?”
“So I’m told.” Crowley grinned. This was a nice change of mood, these were the moments he wished would last forever.
“Then eat this.” Aziraphale pleadingly held out a corner of the baguette and cheese.
Shit. Nevermind how he’d felt just a few seconds prior, these were the moments Crowley wished would end quickly and preferably never happen in the first place.
“You stare,” Aziraphale continued, “when I eat. And you don’t just stare at me, I see you staring at the food. I can see that you’re hungry. You’re actually, physically hungry. And that shouldn’t happen, not if you were miracling yourself sustenance like you’re supposed to. Like I assumed, or rather, hoped you were. But you’re not, are you? You’re obviously not. I know you’re not, because I’ve known you for as long as I’ve been on this earth and you’re thinner now than I’ve ever seen you. You’ve lost weight Crowley, and that shouldn’t even be possible if you’re maintaining your corporation by the expected, miracled means. And you’re not eating in place of a miracle, so you’re just letting yourself very slowly waste away, on purpose, and I’m just watching it happen and trying to pretend that it isn’t. Please, Crowley.”
Oh God, oh Satan, oh fuck. Okay, Crowley thought, I can dodge this proverbial bullet. There was no way in hell, and he’d seen every corner of hell itself, that he was going to give up the one thing in the world that made him feel successful and worthy. Not a damn chance. He was so close to being good enough. Aziraphale didn’t understand, he needed to do this to be good enough to earn the love that Aziraphale gave him so undeservingly. Someday Aziraphale would understand that he was doing this FOR him, so Crowley could be what the angel deserved. Couldn’t the angel see that he wasn’t perfect enough yet? He was so, so close to being pure. Only when he was blessedly, beautifully, skeletally thin would he be good enough to deserve Aziraphale’s love. He needed this.
Crowley loved Aziraphale more than the moon and stars, but possibly not quite as much as he loved that constant, low grade gnawing hunger in the pit of his stomach and the tight look of his bones pressing through paper-like skin. He’d sooner douse himself in holy water than let Aziraphale force food upon him. Just thinking about food sitting in his stomach, weighing him down, covering him in a disgusting layer of fat, and that layer of fat being a visible gauge of his failure and fundamental flaws sent his skin crawling.
But he was fine, he was. There was nothing to worry about anyway. He’d just have to convince Aziraphale as much. He waved away Aziraphale’s hand, which had still been extended toward him with the baguette and decided he’d try the romantic approach.
“You got all that from my staring? I stare because I love you, angel. My stare has no more complicated meaning than that. You are the most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen, and when you’re eating you are so enthralled by it. Every part of you is so joyous and attentive to food and it’s a glorious sight. When you eat you’re so damn passionate, it’s like looking at a work of art. You, my angel, are a masterpiece. Can I be blamed, angel, for staring in intimate moments like these?”
In fact, Crowley hadn’t entirely lied, which he felt pretty chuffed about. He tried to avoid outright lying to his angel when possible, but he could deflect like a champion. He did, in fact, love watching his angel experience pleasure. He loved his angel’s bright eyes and giddy smile. His angel truly was, in Crowley’s eyes, the most beautiful thing in the world. That had all been the truth, at least.
The last time he’d seen Aziraphale look as sad as he did right now, they’d had a fight on the bandstand prior to the would-be-but-wasn’t-armageddon. It killed Crowley to see him like that again, but he felt he was doing what was best for them both, and someday his angel would understand that.
Aziraphale had no idea how to respond to such a blatant lie. So many blatant lies.
Aziraphale knew he was not beautiful and he wished more than anything that Crowley would stop telling that particularly hurtful lie. Especially now that Aziraphale had all but confirmed his suspicions that Crowley was deliberately malnourishing his corporation. Aziraphale couldn’t imagine how Crowley expected him to believe that he really thought the chubby angel was beautiful, while he willfully and intentionally starved himself in contrast. It stood to reason, Aziraphale thought, that if Crowley was doing that to himself, it was also probably what he found attractive in a partner. In other words, the opposite of Aziraphale’s own soft, doughy figure.
“I don’t want to fight again, my dear.” Aziraphale started, welled up eyes threatening to spill rivers of tears, “I’m just going to take a walk, I’ll meet you at home.”
“Angel, I... you know I’d never hurt you... I don’t, I don’t know what you want me to say... I know whatever I said wasn’t what you wanted to hear, it’s obviously made you more upset... Angel I’d never hurt you. You must know that, tell me you know that. All these millennia, you must know that.”
“I know.” Came Aziraphale’s whispered reply. But you’d hurt yourself and that’s much the same thing, was what Aziraphale thought, but didn’t say.
Once Aziraphale was certain that Crowley had left the park, he hastily found the nearest lavatory and knelt before a very different God than usual. A porcelain one. Aziraphale had been sure to drink copious amounts of liquid while eating, as he’d read that was helpful in the regurgitation process. He’d also made a point to chew much more thoroughly than normal, another tip he’d picked up in the brief research he’d done on how to properly purge.
Aziraphale raised two fingers to his open mouth and shoved them forcefully toward the back of his throat. He wretched violently, but nothing came up. Again, he stabbed into his mouth with his fingers, gagging horribly over and over and over, but making very little progress with actual throwing up. His eyes were already red and overflowing with tears just from the gagging, but now he let out an emotional sob on top of it. Why wasn’t it working? How could he be failing so miserably at something that was supposed to make things easier?
He thought of Crowley, of how much he loved his tiny demon, and how badly he wanted Crowley to want him back. Not just to care for him, not even just to love him, but to want and desire him. Crowley did care for him and did love him, but Aziraphale knew that Crowley couldn’t possibly physically want or desire him. Crowley couldn’t even recognize how painfully skinny his own body was. Aziraphale knew Crowley’s warped perceptions made it impossible for him to appropriately judge even himself, so Aziraphale presumed that he would judge the angel’s body in the harshest and most distorted light as well. Aziraphale guessed that the sight his creamy, fat tummy would probably be enough to make Crowley puke just by proxy. Aziraphale couldn’t even make himself puke after half an hour of serious effort.
He had to do this, he wanted more than anything in the world to finally be able to really, properly touch his demon. And, moreover, for his demon to be able to properly ravish him. But Aziraphale knew that would never happen unless he got this stupid food out of his body before any more of it turned into lard. One excruciating hour later, Aziraphale emerged from the lavatory covered in sweat and with putrid breath, but with a mercifully empty stomach. He was on his way.
Chapter 4: Chapter 4
Hi all! I am SO sorry about the late update. Had the flu all week (yuck). Anyway, I’m back and updates are coming. Quick notes below:
- This chapter is focused on Crowley, it’s basically his internal turmoil when he gets back to the cottage after the fight in previous chapter.
- I wanted to do a more in depth study of these issues as they relate to each character, so next chapter will be about Aziraphale’s inner monologue on his way home from the park after the fight also.
- Then the chapter after that will be what happens between them when they reunite later that evening.
- As always, trigger warnings for eating disorders and strong themes of self hate.
- As always, most of what I’m writing is based on how I experience thoughts related to this disease. I’m just inflicting it on these characters because they’re my favorites and they make me feel not so alone when I pretend they struggle like I do too. Please take no offense as none is meant.
That couldn’t have gone much worse, Crowley mused upon arrival back at their South Downs cottage. He was still shocked and panicky about Aziraphale having called him out on his biggest secret, one he’d tried to hide from his friend for the past 6000 years. Actually, it was probably the only secret of any kind he’d ever kept from Aziraphale... it caused him terrible guilt, of course, but he believed it was in both of their best interest to do so.
He’d hoped that with the apocalypse averted, he could have a break from stress. Now he felt like even if the world itself was no longer in danger of ending, a crucial part of his own world still might, and that was almost as horrifying.
When he’d first arrived in Eden, Crowley remembered not really thinking much about his body, at least not his weight specifically. He liked fashion and hairstyles, had adopted human trends over the years, and even enjoyed presenting as varying genders. But for a long time, the need for constant starvation wasn’t about ‘weight’.
His nourishment problem (it wasn’t necessarily an “eating” problem, he reasoned, or at least it wouldn’t have been if he’d had any desire to nourish himself via miracle, which he hadn’t) had not initially been a side effect of vanity, but a consequence of and coping mechanism for his emotional turmoil.
Intellectually, he knew there was a point at which his self imposed malnourishment had been entirely about handling his pain from the fall. He had imagined that the self denial made him seem righteous and thereby worthy of love. He felt so devoid of affection that he would even have accepted love in the form of pity, if his sunken abdomen and sharp hipbones could earn him the right to be cared about, at the very least. Like if God could physically see his despair in the drawn hollows of his cheeks, maybe he could reach Her. Maybe then She would listen.
Crowley liked to tell himself that it was still about these broader psychological and philosophical concepts, that he was proving a point to God or doing penance for the sin of his existence. But when pressed Crowley could admit, if only to himself, that he did quite like being thinner than he should be. With the strong exception of the love he held for Aziraphale, which was always foremost in his mind, he quietly wondered when his weight and body had become one of the most important things in his life. Indeed, his bones and angles were now almost the sole criteria on which he judged himself, and he judged himself more harshly and distortedly by the day despite his figure shrinking consistently, if slowly.
He loved the feeling of his bones and felt like he was making “progress” every hundred years of so when he would notice how he’d gotten just a bit skinnier. He could miracle any clothes for himself that he wanted, and primarily did, but he’d developed a bit of a fetish for trying on clothes in human shops, always elated beyond compare when the smallest sizes available would fit (and on particularly celebratory occasions, be baggy). Once, he’d had to work with Famine on a demonic project and the Horseman had complimented him on how slim he had become... it had been one of the most gratifying moments of Crowley’s exceedingly long existence.
Crowley was not unaware that he spent inordinate amounts of time poking, prodding, and examining every bone that protruded from his body. He loved how sharp they were, yet also how delicate. He felt it was an appropriate metaphor, if nothing else. It’s how he’d describe himself... hard and aesthetic, but prone to shattering if not handled gently.
Somewhere along the way his simple coping mechanism, his route to redemption, had become something much more perverse. He’d made it a daily ritual to feel all of his bones. The ridges of his ribs, pronounced collarbone, and hipbones that stuck out further than his concave abdomen were his favorites. At some point this had become a quest for perfection, and in his mind perfection equalled one specific thing, a destructive and unattainable ideal of thinness.
Even though he knew he’d reliably gotten skinnier with each passing century, and he reminded himself that his clothing was all in the sparest sizing available, he had at some point stopped being able to recognize anything besides flaws when he looked at his body. Although it defied logic, Crowley felt more disgusted by every remaining (and imagined) ounce of fat and skin and flesh on his body now than ever before, despite looking gaunt and spindly to anyone else looking at him.
When the internet had been invented, Crowley recalled with regret, he had become curious about something called pro-ana sites. It wasn’t as if he thought he actually had anorexia, he told himself, it was just for inspiration. Just to see how thin a human body could get, if pushed. There was a whole subsection of the human race who experienced his same desires for perfection, but that many of them were already much more emaciated than he was. He remembered feeling disgusted with his own body as he stared at the cadaverous bodies online, but it did ignite a sort of twisted motivation in him. He wanted that, he could be that flawless, that graceful, that virtuous. He hoped when he looked like that, Heaven (and the love of his life, Aziraphale) would see his worthiness.
He could, of course, have just miracled himself as thin as he’d have liked. Better yet, he could have miracled himself to be perfectly nourished and “healthy” (insomuch as any supernatural corporation of a human form should be) at any weight he chose. But he didn’t, because that would defeat the whole purpose. It would remove the purity he earned by not eating. It would remove the sense of accomplishment he felt every time his human body cried out to him for miracled sustenance, and the sense of righteousness he earned by denying it that satisfaction.
He knew this was a twisted and sick thought process, it wasn’t as though he didn’t realize that he was, quite literally, starving himself on purpose. His body, even if it wouldn’t die, would eventually become brittle and weak, and some part of him worried about that being burdensome on Aziraphale further down the road. Somewhere deep inside him he knew that what he was doing was as close an approximation of human anorexia as a supernatural entity could get. He’d bought a scale at one particularly low psychological point, and discovered that, in human terms he’d have been considered ‘clinically underweight’. He’d been so happy about it that he’d forgotten to yell at his plants for a whole week afterward.
Crowley thought about Aziraphale, his beautiful and perfect Aziraphale. Aziraphale was Crowley’s physical opposite and exactly how he should be, soft and warm and absolutely heavenly. The angel was beautiful beyond anything Crowley had ever seen, and also in a way Crowley knew he would never deserve to be. Aziraphale deserved food, and pleasure, and joy, and indulgence. Aziraphale was still an angel, one who was pure and perfect, not fallen and disgraced like Crowley.
His beautiful angel represented everything that Crowley wasn’t good enough to deserve. He loved Aziraphale’s soft platinum curls and the gentle curves of his body. He wanted by bury his face in the angel’s plush stomach and worship him, because he knew every inch of Aziraphale’s flesh (unlike his own) was pure, blameless, and beautiful.
Aziraphale didn’t need to achieve perfection, he already was perfection. Aziraphale didn’t need to earn his worth, he was already worthy.
Crowley knew his sweet Aziraphale couldn’t understand his reasons, because Aziraphale had no reason to feel ‘lesser than’. He loved Aziraphale so dearly, and had done so every day of his existence since they entered the mortal realm. Crowley found himself haunted by an intense fear that Aziraphale would one day realize just how contemptible the demon was by comparison.
Fighting back tears, Crowley closed his fully snaked out yellow eyes and tried to resist his overwhelming urge to grab the nearest knife and cut every last piece of excess flesh from his body. Everything he saw that wasn’t skin or bone represented failure and some days he wanted to mutilate his corporation until it fit what he thought might be good enough for the love he wanted. Aziraphale’s love.
He felt Aziraphale could love him in concept, and care for him greatly. Sure, the angel was a being made of love itself. It stood to reason that Aziraphale would love him in the way he would love anything, because he couldn’t do anything different. And, Crowley supposed, the angel did like consistency. Aziraphale liked his old books, and wore the same clothes for hundreds of years at a time. Crowley had been a constant in his life, and there was something about that fact that Aziraphale could perhaps love too.
But, Crowley knew Aziraphale couldn’t love him the same way he loved Aziraphale because Crowley simply wasn’t meant to BE loved. Crowley’s love for Aziraphale was all encompassing and awe inspiring. He would worship at the temple of Aziraphale if he could and, frankly, thought the angel was not only a beautiful host of Heaven but the MOST beautiful host of Heaven.
If Aziraphale saw how disgusting, flawed, lowly, and fat (that one was the worst for Crowley, the one that really sent shivers down his knobby spine) Crowley was, he’s never love him truly. He’d never admire him, or desire him. He’d care, because he was wonderfully soft like that. But he would know Crowley was hideous both inside and out, and that Crowley would never truly deserve him.
Crowley hated himself for a lot of things, the most painful of which being his surety that Aziraphale would never find him beautiful because every piece of his flesh was stained with inadequacy and weakness. It was why he wanted so much to get rid of as much of that, quite literally, God forsaken flesh as possible. He could hardly bear to look at his own reflection sometimes, so he couldn’t imagine how gross (and fat) the angel must think he was. He couldn’t be loveable, he was far too far from being pure. Thin was pure. And Crowley’s thin wasn’t thin enough.
Chapter 5: Chapter 5
- This chapter takes place during the same chunk of time as the previous one, it’s just Aziraphale’s internal monologue on his way home from the park.
- These two character study chapters felt important to me, probably because both have elements of what I deal with.
- Next chapter will continue with plot line story, both back at cottage. :)
- As always, stay safe, and heed appropriate trigger warnings. This whole fic is just me venting utilizing characters I adore.
Aziraphale grimaced at the sour taste that remained in his mouth as he made his way back toward the cottage. It was a foreign and unpleasant taste, but something about it brought Aziraphale an inexplicable calm.
The actual act of vomiting had been horrible, Aziraphale had hated every second of the retching and heaving process. His throat felt raw and sore, as though he’d just finished deep throating a package of nails. He also noted that, for the first time in 6000 years on earth he felt slightly dizzy, which wasn’t entirely pleasant.
But, those physical repercussions were far outshone by the psychological ones. Aziraphale may not have felt physically well, but he felt emotionally rejuvenated. The angel was flooded with relief and a sense of peace knowing that, despite some discomfort during the regurgitation process, he could from now on completely reverse any damage he’d done by eating.
He didn’t have to worry about Gabriel’s jabs, or what Crowley would think about him if he gained more weight because he simply wouldn’t. He could eat anything he liked, proceed as normal (so as to avoid Crowley’s suspicion), and make certain he never gained weight again so long as he refused to keep the food down. Heck, it would even force him to lose some of his grotesque flab. Now that would be quite a magic trick.
Just like the paintball stain on his coat that he would’ve always felt was there even if he’d miracled it away, Aziraphale didn’t want to simply miracle his gut away. He’d know it wasn’t really him, that he hadn’t managed any self control, that it was just superficial... as though putting a band aid on a wound made the wound go away. So Aziraphale resolved that his best option, to be a more attractive and acceptable partner for Crowley, was to stick with this new ritual of throwing up after eating.
Truth be told, he’d never given so much as a second thought to how his body had looked until Gabriel had mentioned it. In all 6000 years on Earth, he’d just not really bothered to care about that aspect of how he looked. He regretted it now, and felt ashamed and embarrassed that he’d gone such a great deal of time without noticing how disgusting he was.
It really was hard to believe he’d never noticed how bad he looked, Aziraphale thought with despair, particularly having spent his entire earthly existence with an extremely slender demon by his side. Crowley must have noticed long ago how out of shape Aziraphale was, he’d probably spent centuries thinking he was gross and fat. But, Crowley had never said a word, being kinder (ironically) than the Archangel who had finally brought it to Aziraphale’s attention.
Aziraphale knew he was a poor excuse for an angel... Angels were supposed to be perfect and lovely and shining examples of an ideal. He was about as far from ‘ideal’ as a being could get.
Aziraphale loved human food, it was one of the things he’d found joy in on this planet. He liked the pleasing aroma and the way salt made his mouth dry and how sweets made his mouth water. He enjoyed the sensations involved, it was the sort of thing an angel could only experience on earth, with a body, and it was beautiful. At least, he’d thought it was.
Ever since Gabriel had called out his less than acceptable physique, all Aziraphale could think about was the way his stomach presses into the waistband of his pants and bulged over his trousers, and how his thighs rubbed together when he walked. He hated those new sensations, they weren’t “new” of course, but noticing them was new to him. He couldn’t believe how utterly badly he’d let himself go over the years, it was appalling.
Aziraphale’s thoughts drifted where they always did, to Crowley. He felt badly about having called the demon out about his own habits during what was supposed to be a pleasant outing, but he hadn’t known what else to do. Aziraphale was an angel and he felt that if he knew for a fact that someone, and especially someone he loved, was in danger he needed to do something.
Aziraphale wasn’t entirely certain whether either of them could be discorperated by starving to death, he was certain it hadn’t ever really been attempted by either side, since it was the sort of thing an angel or demon would have to go out of their way to do. However, he was certain that a human body (and that is what they both had, after all) could only take so much malnutrition before it became sickly and brittle. Aziraphale was fairly sure that Crowley’s body was capable of suffering very painful consequences (if he wasn’t already) from willful starvation, even if he couldn’t die, as such.
Nothing made Aziraphale sadder than knowing that there wasn’t anything he could really do to help Crowley. He didn’t even understand why Crowley would do such a thing to himself. Aziraphale vaguely wondered if maybe Crowley was so disgusted by the angel’s figure that it had triggered something in him to take extreme measures to avoid ever looking that way, himself. The thought gave Aziraphale a pit in his chubby stomach, but the angel thought it best not to dwell on it for now, because he wasn’t sure he could live with himself if he’d been the reason Crowley had let himself get so ill.
Crowley really didn’t look well. Aziraphale had thought that the stress of an impending Armageddon had made Crowley look more tired and pale that usual lately. But ever since the world hadn’t ended, Aziraphale could no longer deny that even when stress free his demon was very gaunt and pinched looking.
Aziraphale was touch starved as could be and wanted nothing more than to hug and hold Crowley for the rest of their lives, but laying in bed the other evening had been a horrible experience. All Aziraphale had been able to do for most of the evening was fret about his soft midsection and chubby thighs.
And, during the brief moments in the bedroom when he had managed to draw his thoughts away from himself and to his partner, he’d been almost more upset. Crowley had felt fragile underneath his arm, almost corpselike. Aziraphale was afraid he’d hurt the cadaverous demon if he held him too enthusiastically. He recalled the feeling of Crowley’s ribs under his fingers, and that alone made him want to throw up again, but for an entirely different reason.
Aziraphale was devastated because the being he loved so dearly was clearly sick and hurting himself. If Aziraphale could only understand why then maybe he could help, but he couldn’t fathom any reason for it. Crowley had always been physically beautiful, everything about him was the ultimate temptation.
The demon had been plenty thin in the Beginning, and if anything, the thinner Crowley got the less Aziraphale felt physical lust for him. Of course, Aziraphale’s love for Crowley had grown over the years in immeasurable amounts. But as Crowley slowly lost weight from his already skinny frame over 6000 years, Aziraphale just found himself becoming more concerned and pained for him. Aziraphale would feel too guilty instigating anything very amorously physical with Crowley by this point, because he feared if he did it might reinforce whatever skewed belief Crowley held about his appearance and weight.
Aziraphale, on the other hand, had no such skewed belief about his own size. Rather, he could see quite clearly that his doughy gut was repulsive underneath his waistcoat. The angel knew he’d just need to work harder, he was capable of becoming better, slimmer, more desirable.
If Crowley was apparently so obsessed with being thin, it must be an aesthetic that pleased him. He would, reasonably, expect the same aesthetic in a partner. Aziraphale desperately wanted Crowley to find him attractive in the hope that one day, if Crowley were healthier, they could “make an effort”. But as things stood, the angel knew that Crowley must find him absolutely vile and objectionable, appearance wise.
Of course Crowley loved him, the demon had proved that repeatedly across the centuries... but physical love and spiritual love are two very different things and Aziraphale sadly knew that Crowley would never be attracted to a fat and flabby being.
Throwing up for a little while couldn’t really hurt, there were consequences, sure... but Aziraphale was confident he wouldn’t let it go far enough to really do any damage. He just wanted to be a bit trimmer. Unlike Crowley, he’d know when enough was enough, wouldn’t he? He pondered all of these things as he arrived back at the cottage.
Yes, he decided. He couldn’t stand to feel disgusting and worthless anymore. He couldn’t stand being terrified of his partner judging him or rejecting him. He couldn’t stand all of the gross fat that had accumulated around his gut and thighs over the years. And he’d be rid of it, easily even. It would be a win-win, really, he could enjoy food to his heart’s content and be rid of it before any damage was done. He’d keep up this purging thing, at least for now, he resolved as he turned the doorknob.
Chapter 6: Chapter 6
Yay, I’m back! The bad news is it took longer to write this chapter than expected (sorry!), the good news is that this chapter is a bit longer than the others and I think I like how it turned out (yay!).
- As always, be safe and heed possible triggers. I love you all and don’t want to cause anyone any harm.
- My personal issues are more similar to Crowley’s than the ones I’ve described for Aziraphale. Kinda felt obligated to have Aziraphale struggling as well, because that seems to be a popular fandom trope... but I was finding Crowley’s side easier and more cathartic to write.
- SO, this chapter addresses both Crowley and Aziraphale’s issues and is an interaction between them again back at the cottage. After this chapter Aziraphale’s issues won’t be a prominent piece of the storyline and it will mostly focus on Crowley’s anorexia ongoing since that’s what “hits home” for me. It’s much easier for me to write, more relatable, and more therapeutic for me.
Okay, here we go...
“Angel, I’m so glad you came home. I was half expecting you to leave me. You’re not... here to leave me...” Crowley’s voice cracked and turned to a whisper, “...are you?”
It was the first time Aziraphale had seen Crowley with his sunglasses since the end of the world hadn’t happened, and it broke the angel’s heart. He knew those glasses were a shield for Crowley. Even before Armageddidn’t, Crowley had rarely worn them when exclusively in the company of Aziraphale.
The angel approached Crowley gently, cautiously lifting the glasses off his love’s face and revealing huge, terrified yellow eyes.
Aziraphale’s naturally open face grew even softer as he replied, “Never. We’ve waited too long to be together, my dear. I may come from Heaven but I am not like them... I will never leave you, Crowley. You have me, and we are safe and together now. We’ve faced the whole of human history together, my love, there is nothing we can’t get through.”
If snakes were capable of producing tears, Crowley would have begun crying in that moment, and the way his face pinched and crumpled betrayed it.
“I’m just so scared, Angel. So many times over the centuries I’ve wondered what it would be like to be with you and I don’t want to drive you away, I...” Crowley sniffed, then paused as his face changed from emotional to searching, “I didn’t think angels could get sick?”
Crowley leaned forward and focused on getting his demonstrative state under control. If there was something wrong with his angel, he needed to be operating at full capacity.
“They can’t.” A flustered Aziraphale replied hastily.
Crowley’s eyes narrowed but his penetrating gaze didn’t shift, and Aziraphale quickly realized what the demon was actually asking. Had Crowley not been so psychologically broken up when Aziraphale had arrived back home, he would have immediately smelled the acidic residue from the angel’s earlier purge session. Now that they were close to one another and Aziraphale put his mind to ease, the demon had apparently caught on.
“Wait, I meant, they don’t. At least I don’t think they do, that is, we do. I’m not sure why you ask, dearest?” It was Aziraphale’s turn to deflect, apparently.
Crowley wasn’t certain how to respond. Aziraphale was acting like... well, acting like he himself had at the park. Crowley knew the smell, demons had a knack for recognizing every putrid scent in existence, a gift of the fall. So he knew Aziraphale had somehow gotten sick on his way home.
Had the food made him ill? No, he didn’t think angels could get sick, at least not involuntarily. And Aziraphale had just confirmed that, probably before he’d realized why Crowley had been asking. Now he clearly realized, and was being evasive and nervous about the subject.
Crowley didn’t want to think the worst, but with his own issues he wasn’t unaware of other, similar, ones that existed. He knew one thing for certain, if the angel had made himself throw up (Crowley shuddered at the thought), it was definitely the first time. Crowley would’ve sensed it before just as easily as he had now, so the demon took comfort in knowing that it was early enough to intervene if necessary. He knew from firsthand experience that there came a point when addiction took over, but his angel wasn’t beyond that point yet.
He’d do anything to stop his angel from ever enduring the internal turmoil and self hatred he faced every time he looked in a mirror. His angel deserved to feel so beautiful, so perfect. It pained Crowley to think that ever for one moment Aziraphale might not have known how very worthy he was.
“Angel, if there’s something you want to tell me, about what happened after I left the park, please do. I would never judge you, but I think you know that I know. And I promise I’ll just listen if you’ll talk me through it.” Crowley cautiously offered his support, while also letting Aziraphale understand what he knew (or at least strongly suspected).
Crowley knew he couldn’t be too pushy, even if this was a recent thing for Aziraphale. The demon had felt backed into a corner when Aziraphale blurted out accusations regarding Crowley’s issues with food. Well meaning as the angel was, Aziraphale’s tactics had only served to make Crowley more uncomfortable in the situation, less likely to open up about it, and more protective of his coping mechanism (or, if he felt like being honest with himself, his disorder). Crowley understood that a more mindful approach was needed if he wanted Aziraphale to open up.
Aziraphale easily discerned the demon’s meaning and cast his gaze downward, only to be met by his bulging gut. Tears formed in the angel’s eyes and Crowley delicately wiped each one away as the fell, but remained silent, giving Aziraphale space to lead a conversation if one was to be had.
“It’s this,” Aziraphale squeaked after several moments, still staring down at the offending tummy.
“It’s what, angel? Help me understand.”
“I’d never really noticed before, but Gabriel-“
“What about Gabriel? What did he do to you? Where is he?” Crowley gripped Aziraphale’s shoulders tighter than he meant to in fiery rage upon hearing the Archangel’s name.
“He’s not here, dear. It’s, this was, before the apocalypse was supposed to happen. It’s fine, really, he did me a favor if anything. I hadn’t noticed that I’d gotten rather...” Aziraphale winced as he tried to meet Crowley’s eyes, “um, rather soft. Er, that is, I have a bit, well more than a bit, of a gut. And that’s not, ah, well it’s certainly not very attractive, dear, so I thought I’d work on that. It uh, it seems you do know what I smell like, quite better than I’d hoped you would, and um, I was hoping you wouldn’t notice until I was, uh, less unsightly.”
Crowley could’ve screamed. He could’ve cursed the heavens and Gabriel and even his moronic beloved angel for ever internalizing the words of that bastard. Internally, he was doing all of those things. But externally, he only looked Aziraphale up and down, took in every perfect angelic inch of him. Aziraphale watched him do so and squirmed under the scrutiny.
“You’re an angel, you’re perfect by definition. But even if that weren’t true, let me tell you what I think. I think I’ve never seen a smile as bright as yours, or cheeks as rosy. I see the light of heaven in your sparkling eyes. I see the strength of the guardian of the eastern gate in your arms, and I see your love for humanity and the world and all of its beauty and pleasure in your soft little tummy. I see all the time we’ve spent together and the places we’ve seen, and the things you’ve enjoyed. You are beautiful, you are soft and lovely and gentle and plush and luxurious and you are exactly, EXACTLY, how you should be. I hate thinking that you’ve spent even a moment on this mortal sphere feeling anything different but I promise that I will remind you every single day until you know it as assuredly as you know every book in your shop. You are gorgeous, angel, and you are mine.”
Aziraphale blushed deeply, he was wary of such flattery but not immune to it.
Crowley paused for a moment to let Aziraphale process his declaration before he gestured toward the angel’s waistcoat and asked, “May I?”
“Crowley, I hardly think now is the time to try and get me naked.”
“I saw you naked last night, angel. And this morning. And I loved what I saw. I didn’t dare show you how much, but I’d like to now, if you’d let me?”
Aziraphale could do nothing but nod in consent while Crowley’s bony fingers undid the buttons and slid underneath his clothing to grace his flesh. Aziraphale grimaced at the contact, Crowley’s cold skeletal fingers on him just serving as another reminder of how sickly his partner was.
Crowley, meanwhile, had closed the distance between them so their bodies were flush and was hissing sweet nothings about how beautiful he thought Aziraphale was in the angel’s ear. He flicked a forked tongue across the angel’s earlobe before trailing it down along his neck, accompanied by tiny kisses and light nibbles until he reached the angel’s mouth and tried once again to kiss him as he had done in the morning.
Crowley had earlier feared that the angel wasn’t ready or interested in being physical, but if it was simply to do with self esteem he was determined to make damn sure his angel knew how utterly desirable and desired he was. His hands worked nimbly to finish removing the angel’s clothing, before stripping himself down to the boxers.
Aziraphale’s lips were red and swollen from the kissing, and Crowley admired the gorgeous being he got to call his own. In the moment Crowley took for admiration of his angel, however, Aziraphale’s expression shifted from blissful arousal to sorrow.
“I can’t do this, my dear. I want to, I promise I do. But I can’t.” Aziraphale’s eyes were pools of longing and apology.
“You can. You are so flawless to me, angel. Please let me show you just how ravishing you are. I never want you doing anything like that to yourself ever again, and if you let me, I’ll prove to you exactly how much I love every last bit of your body.”
“I know, and I don’t think I will do it again, dearest. I believe you, I do... I heard it when your voice cracked, and I saw the honesty in your eyes. I know you’re not being untruthful about how you feel. And, how you feel about me matters more than what Gabriel or anyone else thinks. I love you, dearest, and I was just so afraid of disappointing you.”
“You could never disappoint me, angel, I adore you. I wish I were worthy of YOU, never the other way around. Can I please, finally, worship you... ALL of you?”
Aziraphale sighed, “No, dearest. I can’t. You’ve already proved that you think I’m beautiful, and that may be enough for me to feel comfortable with myself and my form... but it can’t make me comfortable with yours. I’m sorry, my dear, I truly am but we can’t do this right now, rather, I can’t.”
Crowley jumped back from Aziraphale as if he’d been burned. He felt like he was on fire, but knew every bit of color had drained from his face. Instinctively, he wrapped his arms around his bare chest and caved in on himself.
So Aziraphale did think he was disgusting, Crowley thought. Satan, how fucking stupid had he been to think Aziraphale would want him, like even at his most vulnerable the angel might endure Crowley’s loathsome being.
If either of them was fat and gross, it definitely wasn’t Aziraphale, thought Crowley. Aziraphale was exactly how he should be, Crowley was the one who was so disgracefully flawed. Crowley immediately felt like he was covered in layers of grotesque blubber and he just wanted to scratch every last horrible inch of the imaginary flesh off him. Worthless, unforgivable, fallen. All of these awful labels clung to him no matter how thin he got. He hoped someday he’d lose so much weight he’d shed everything else detestable about him along with it. Maybe then Aziraphale would want him.
Crowley had begun subconsciously stroking a thumb over his ribs when Aziraphale reached out and grabbed his hand to stop the motion.
“Stop doing that, please dear. I don’t want to watch you admire your own bones. My feelings of inadequacy were very recent, and what I did today was a first time thing. It was easier to open up, and easier for me to accept love and reassurance. But you, you’re very sick, Crowley. You clearly have been for a long time. And I shouldn’t have sprung the discussion on you earlier like I did, dearest, but I think what you have is more serious than I quite know how to handle. It’s scaring me.”
“There’s nothing to be scared about Angel, I’m fine. I don’t know what you’re even talking about. I’m not sick, so you don’t need to worry about me.” Crowley denied vehemently.
It wasn’t really a lie, in Crowley’s mind he wasn’t sick. He was fat and repulsive, but he was fixing it. He’d be skinny soon enough, and then he’d deserve good things like the love of one particular angel.
Aziraphale snapped and they were both fully dressed once more. He couldn’t stand looking at Crowley’s concave and hollow body any more, it was too painful to see what time and self loathing had done to one of the most beautiful creatures he’d ever seen.
Crowley’s face sunk even further, Aziraphale had with that action all but confirmed his fear. Aziraphale obviously hated the demon’s sin filled (fat) body as much as he did.
“I think you believe you’re not sick. You might even erroneously believe you’re too heavy,” Aziraphale questioned, and Crowley visibly flinched in confirmation, “Crowley, I think you might have something called anorexia.”
“I don’t.” Crowley scoffed far louder and more dramatically than he’d intended to.
“You may not be able to see it, dear, but I’m so scared I’m going to lose you if something doesn’t change.”
“You’re being ridiculous, angel. You’re not going to lose me, I’m right here. I’ve always been here for you, I always will.”
“Not if you discorporate yourself by starvation.”
“I don’t think that’s possible, angel, so just don’t worry about it. Plus, I’m nowhere near that skinny even if it were.”
“You are. When our bodies are pressed against each other I want to feel passionate, but I just end up feeling saddened by how horribly emaciated you are.”
Aziraphale felt like he’d been punched in the gut watching the look of delight flash across Crowley’s face at the word ‘emaciated’. The word was meant to describe his awful state of sickness, but Crowley had obviously taken it as a compliment.
Crowley, for his part, felt orgasmic at being called emaciated by his partner. He didn’t want Aziraphale to keep harping on about getting him to change, that was for sure, but to know that the angel thought he looked THAT skinny was quite a thrilling rush.
Crowley imagined how impressed Aziraphale would be with the demon’s body if he got even thinner. There would be so little of this hideous, demonic body left. Crowley knew he could be perfect if he just lost 10 (maybe 15) more pounds. He would certainly impress his angel then.
“You worry too much.” Crowley dismissed, “Let’s go to bed, angel.”
Aziraphale defeatedly followed Crowley’s tiny form into the bed, truly realizing for the first time how deeply ill his demon was. He dropped it for the night because he knew, unequivocally, for the first time, that there really was nothing he could do. And the pain of that realization stabbed through him while he watched the gaunt, cadaverous demon drift off into a shallow sleep.
Chapter 7: Chapter 7
Now that I’m mostly focusing on Crowley, I’ve definitely got less writers block (which means more frequent chapters, wahoo lol).
- As I’ve said, this is mostly a vent fic for me... taking my issues and applying them to poor Crowley because it makes it easier if I feel like I can relate to him.
- ED’s can manifest differently for different people so I’m just writing his perspective on it based on my own experience of it but different people experience the disorder differently. This is simply cathartic for me
- I’m not under the impression that the numbers in this chapter are particularly triggering (there’s no actual weight listed, just like “x pounds lost” but it doesn’t give a starting weight so there’s no actual weights involved). BUT, I’d also never want to upset, trigger, set back anyone SO just covering my bases and letting you know that there’s a very small part that mentions a non-exact-weight but peripherally related number.
- Also, not super relevant but every time I listen to Bodies by Robbie Williams (particularly these lyrics) I think of Crowley in this fic... (in case anyone wanted companion music to this fic which I’ll bet no one does haha)
“All we've ever wanted is to look good naked/
Hope that someone can take it/
God save me rejection from my reflection/
I want perfection/
Jesus didn't die for you/
What do you want? (I want perfection)/
Jesus didn't die for you/
What are you on? (I need some)/
Jesus didn't die for you”
- I just want anyone reading to know that I actually do mean it when I say if you’re struggling and just want a friend to talk to I’m here. I get it and I get that it sucks to go through it alone. Be safe and be kind to yourself.
Several uneventful mornings later, Crowley stepped out of the shower and wrapped a towel around his sunken waist. Supernatural beings didn’t ‘need’ to shower any more than they ‘needed’ anything else, they could simply miracle a solution to the problem and make themselves as clean as they liked.
Crowley, however, was very grateful for the human ritual of showering. In his snake form, he genuinely was cold blooded and his body would respond accordingly to the environment. However, the human body he’d been issued was warm blooded and (should have) kept his temperature consistent.
As his body weight plummeted over the millennia, he’d grown colder and colder despite inhabiting his human form, until the only times he felt any warmth at all were in the shower or, more recently, in Aziraphale’s arms. Since he knew Aziraphale was unfamiliar with the particulars of his biology, it was easy to convince the angel that his being so cold when in human form was just a remnant of his snake roots, even though Crowley himself was fully aware that it actually wasn’t.
Crowley hated the constant chill that surged through his skin and straight on down to the bone. It was unpleasant enough to be cold as a snake, but in his human body this particular kind of cold felt much worse, because it was unnatural and only brought about by a total lack of insulation. The warm, wet, steam filled relief of a shower did provide some temporary heat, but it had also begun to bring about a certain disconcerting lightheadedness. Crowley vaguely wondered if this indicated any other long term effects on this body’s health, but dismissed the thought without too much concern.
Now, outside the embrace of the heated water and standing in his towel, Crowley felt that distinct chill creep beneath his skin once more. With a slim hand he wiped the mirror of condensation and met his own serpentine eyes in the reflection. Crowley scowled, he could lose all the weight in the world and never be thin enough to shed those horrible demonic remnants. Which reminded him...
Crowley crouched to the cabinet below the sink and lifted the up the false floor there revealing a compartment underneath. Inside the compartment was the one thing that truly mattered to Crowley, apart from his angel... and that was a scale.
Crowley wasn’t even entirely certain if Aziraphale knew what a scale was, or why the demon would use one, since supernatural entities didn’t typically care about the mortal system of measurement and assessment. Crowley was certain, though, that he didn’t want Aziraphale finding it or knowing he had one.
Crowley feared that, if Aziraphale did find out that he’d been keeping a scale and weighing himself, it would only make the angel more upset and worried for him. And completely unnecessarily, of course, Crowley assured himself. After all, every pound he lost was an improvement, not a cause for concern. He was becoming better, thinner, more perfect. Nothing could be wrong with that. Perfection was, well... perfection. Being perfectly skinny couldn’t be bad, if one thought about it logically, precisely because it was perfect.
It was just that Aziraphale had made it clear he didn’t see it the same way, so Crowley hid the fact that he kept a scale in their home, because what Aziraphale didn’t know couldn’t hurt him. Crowley hated lying to his angel, but felt it was the only way to keep some peace. His angel just didn’t understand, if his angel could see all of the disgusting flaws Crowley was trying to get rid of he’d know the demon was nowhere near good or thin enough (yet).
Since supernatural corporations took much longer to decay without any sustainence (miracled or consumed, whichever the entity chose), Crowley had found that a loss of around 5 pounds per 1000 years was expected, provided he didn’t miracle his body any nourishment or consume anything besides alsohol and coffee. He hadn’t actually done this in a few hundred years now, but was curious as to if recent stress had helped the weight loss along at all.
8 pounds lost this century... yes, it seemed the not-Armageddon scare had indeed given his weight loss a little extra boost as of late. So why, even though he was thinner than he’d ever been, did he FEEL so much fatter?
Crowley looked back at his reflection in the still-dewy mirror. He could see the gaunt hollows beneath his cheeks, and how his jawline had sharpened to the point of harshness. He observed his clavicle, once again tantalized by the action of running his fingertips along it, stopping to make small, soothing circles on the juts of bone where it met his shoulders, and again where each bet in the middle just below his slender neck. Satisfied by the prominence he felt there, his fingertips trailed down to his favorite body part, the ribs.
Nothing in the world, perhaps not even Aziraphale, comforted Crowley like the feeling of his own ribs. As much as he loved the angel, and he did deeply, he was still terrified that the day might come when Aziraphale would abandon him (just as Heaven had when he fell). His ability to control himself, to resist pleasure, to refuse to give in to the disgusting demonic flesh that needed nourishment, that was entirely his. He had control over that. He had control over himself, and his weight, and his bones, and his body. No one could take that from him, not even Aziraphale. Everything else he loved could be taken away at any moment, but not this. For Crowley, the quest for perfection and the ultimate skeletal form was the only thing he loved that he was certain wouldn’t abandon him, because it was HIS and his alone.
Even standing normally and upright, he could now clearly see each rib, hills and valleys all in a perfect row underneath pale papery skin. As much as he appreciated the tiny dips between each of them, he loved trailing his fingers down them lengthwise and feeling how concave the waist below them had become. It used to be entirely flat, when he’d been issued the body, but now there was a significant inward curve that Crowley was quite proud of. The hipbones that met his hands as they continued down his body made a perfect landing for the bony fingers.
Crowley was constantly confused because there seemed to always be a juxtaposition in his head. He could SEE how thin he’d become, he wasn’t blind... he could visually look in a mirror and admire the effects his starvation was having. He could feel every bone in his body a million times over and he could even feel pride and accomplishment in their increased protrusion.
Yet, he still FELT fatter than ever. He felt more and more like a failure. More and more like it wasn’t good enough, like despite being thinner he was further away from being thin ENOUGH than ever before. It wasn’t so much a visual sight, as a feeling (although he did, occasionally, also see himself as distortedly larger than he really was).
His body FELT too big, he felt like he took up too much space. He FELT all of this phantom flesh clinging to his body, layers of (nonexistent) fat just enveloping his entire form. He FELT disgusting and worthless, and like he was covered in a coat of gross blubber that just wouldn’t go away. He FELT like everyone they met stared at him, at his imperfections, at every little spare ounce of flesh still clinging to his bones. He FELT like Aziraphale only noticed the grotesque mounds of (imaginary, but very real to Crowley’s sick mind) extra flab that he had yet to get rid of.
And he knew it must disgust Aziraphale as much as it disgusted himself. After all, why else wouldn’t Aziraphale want to see him naked? Why would Aziraphale have touched him less and less over the past few days? The angel must have finally come to his senses and seen what Crowley had sadly known all along, that Crowley was weak, and worthless, and disgraceful. And mostly, imperfect (which in Crowley’s mind, was completely synonymous with fat).
He couldn’t blame the angel for not wanting him. Even Crowley didn’t want Crowley. He just wished he could get at least this one thing right. If he could achieve that perfect emaciated form that he’d seen in the photos of beautiful, skeletal humans with incredible self control, then he would be worthy. Aziraphale couldn’t possibly reject him then. He’d be so lovely and so delicate, Aziraphale would have to admire him. Aziraphale couldn’t possibly be reject his demonic body if he got rid of as much of it as possible. He’d be so light and perfect, surely there was goodness in things that were light and perfect. That’s what heaven was, after all. Crowley wanted so badly to be like that.
A second wave of dizziness hit Crowley suddenly and by surprise, the last thing he saw was his own yellow eyes in the mirror’s reflection once more before the world went black and he hit the tiled floor.
Chapter 8: Chapter 8
Hello again :)
So quick notes:
- this chapter draws from experiences I have specifically had when I’m in the depths of my disorder and people have tried to help me and explain to me that I’m sick... and in my mind I just find a way to twist it all around and rationalize it and hear something entirely different than what they actually said. So I thought that would be interesting to play out with these characters since this is mostly a long therapy exercise for me :)
- everyone’s experience is different, I’m just modeling Crowley’s mental state on my own, ED’s manifest in many ways and are complicated/deceptive
- as always, be safe and be as kind to yourself as you can be.
Okay, here we go...
Aziraphale sat in the study sipping a mug of cocoa and contemplating. He’d not brought up anything one way or another about Crowley’s appearance or behavior for the past few days, though he was uncertain if leaving it alone for now was the right decision. Aziraphale had been shocked and devastated when he really saw how deeply ingrained Crowley’s disorder was, and now the angel was incredibly scared that if he tried to help, he might only make matters worse.
Aziraphale loved Crowley for nearly all the things he was. He loved how Crowley was reliable, how Crowley was nice (though he’d never let it be said aloud), how Crowley cared about him, and how Crowley trusted him. Crowley had been the one constant in Aziraphale’s life throughout his time on Earth, and Aziraphale now wondered if he had not been there for his friend as much as the demon had needed.
Was all of this his fault? Was it his neglect? Had he not been there for Crowley when he’d needed consistency and companionship in return? Had he been too slow to realize his love for the demon, and to show it? How had Aziraphale gone so long without realizing how sick his friend was? All of these questions plagued Aziraphale as they swirled inside his head, but his thoughts were interrupted by a ‘thud’ that came from the bathroom.
Crowley was in the bathroom, and he’d been in there a long time. Aziraphale felt his stomach flip with a sudden nervousness for the demon, alarmed by the thwack that sounded suspiciously like a small body hitting the floor. Aziraphale hurriedly bustled over to the bathroom door and knocked forcefully and repeatedly.
“Crowley, CROWLEY, are you alright in there, dear? Dearest, what was that noise? CROWLEY? CROWLEY?”
As an angel, Aziraphale opposed the idea of invading anyone’s privacy, but as a friend, Aziraphale didn’t think twice before miracling the door open. His eyes met a half naked, cadaverous, and unconscious demon in a small heap on the floor. Had Aziraphale had time for tears, there would have been many, but he knew he needed to focus on helping his barely-not-discorperated friend right now.
Aziraphale lifted Crowley with a sickening amount of ease and carried him over to their large bed, then miracled the demon’s favorite pyjamas onto him. Carding his fingers through Crowley’s hair, Aziraphale prayed to any entity whose radar he might still be on to help his friend.
Aziraphale began speaking softly to the still comatose Crowley, “oh my dear, what have you done to yourself? I wish you would talk to me, darling. I need you, I’ve always needed you. Why are you doing this my love? I want to help, I wish you’d let me help. I don’t know what to do, Crowley, this is killing you...”
“Mmmmm unnnggkk... a-angel?” Crowley dizzily pried his eyes open.
“Shhh, it’s okay dear. You’re okay, just relax.”
“What’re you doing here? I was...”. Crowley noticed his surroundings for the first time and groaned, “I was in the bathroom, angel... how did I get into bed?”
“I found you passed out on the bathroom floor, Crowley. I couldn’t very well leave you there, love, so I brought you in here.”
“Carried you, darling. You were freezing cold so I got you into pyjamas.”
“Ugh ngk.” Crowley’s face found what little color it could muster as he blushed with shame, “shouldn’t‘ve carried me, ‘mm too heavy.” Even while struggling to maintain consciousness Crowley managed to regard himself quite distortedly.
Aziraphale’s heart sunk into his stomach, “no, dear, you’re not. It was alarmingly easy to carry you. You are far too light, and it’s scaring me.”
Crowley’s lips twisted upward involuntarily as he allowed himself to feel some sense of victory at Aziraphale’s words. Crowley still felt mortified that the angel had carried him, since he definitely felt he should’ve been far too fat, but it felt amazing to have the angel confess how eerily thin he believed the demon had gotten. He imagined Aziraphale being very proud of him, lifting his slender body and feeling how delicate it was. At least, Crowley hoped, Aziraphale saw the progress the demon was making, and that one day he’d be perfect and thin enough to be really deserve the love of his angel.
“Crowley, dear, I need you to look at me,” Aziraphale said forcefully, as though he’d read Crowley’s mind, “I can see the gears turning in that little head of yours. You have an illness, Crowley, and I know something in your mind tells you countless lies about yourself every day. I don’t know how to fix that and I wish I did, but I will not, I will NOT, let you tell yourself lies on my behalf.”
Aziraphale softened slightly and composed himself. Angels were typically of a gentle disposition and not prone to ‘anger’ per se, but Aziraphale’s fear was overtaking his composure for the moment.
“I can see you taking what I said as a compliment, Crowley,” Aziraphale continued delicately, “I can see the very sick part of your head telling you that I’m praising you when I acknowledge that you’re terribly skinny. I need you to hear this and understand this, Crowley, when I tell you that there is NO part of me that is admiring or condoning how dangerously underweight you are. You are NOT doing this for me, that is one lie I refuse to let you tell yourself. I love YOU, my dear, not your body. If I love your body, it’s ONLY because it has you in it. I can’t even look at you, Crowley, you must have noticed how much I hate seeing you naked.”
Crowley flinched, because I’m so gross and fat, he thought to himself.
The angel pressed on, “Crowley, listen to me. I have to fight to hold back tears looking at what you’ve done to yourself, how you’ve starved your once beautiful form into a hollow mess of bones. Your whole body looks sunken and stretched and gaunt and I actually physically can’t bear to look at it, because I remember how gorgeous you used to be when you were healthy and that kills me, darling.”
At least the angel was playing fast and loose with the compliments today, thought Crowley, calling him ‘hollow’ and ‘sunken’ and ‘gaunt’. It was sweet, but he feared the angel was merely flattering him to make him feel better, since he’d apparently had a rough day what with passing out and all. He knew he had a long way to go if he really wanted to earn any of those praises.
“I don’t like to touch you, not only because I can’t stand to feel how skeletal you are, but because I know, I KNOW that every time I do you love it. And you don’t love it because you love me, I know you do love me, but you love it when you know I’m feeling how emaciated you are. I see the pride well up in you when I put my arms around your chest and you know I can feel your ribs. And I can’t stand for you to think for one minute that I enjoy that because I don’t. I want you healthy, Crowley. Yes, because I love you and it’s good for you, but please HEAR me when I say this, you are so much more beautiful and perfect when you are healthy. Your bones popping through your skin is not normal, it’s not right, it’s NOT a virtue, and it’s not what I want, or what I like. So never, NEVER, my dear boy, let the voice in your head tell you I feel otherwise. I don’t know how to stop it from telling you whatever else it might tell you, but DO NOT ever believe that I am somehow appeased by what you are doing to yourself. It is very much the opposite, my love, I am in a great deal of pain watching you waste away to nothing. Don’t you dare tell yourself it’s for me, Crowley, don’t ever.”
Oh angel, Crowley silently mused, of course his angel would say that. It was the ‘right’ thing to say. It obviously wasn’t the honest thing to say, Aziraphale had lied to him many times throughout the centuries, this wasn’t any different. And Crowley knew that the angel knew he knew it. Aziraphale just couldn’t bring himself to openly ‘support’ Crowley in doing something which was ‘technically’ not healthy. It wouldn’t be the angelic thing to do, after all.
But beneath the angelic nature, Crowley could tell that Aziraphale appreciated his efforts, and that he’d love the demon even more if he were just a little thinner. All the evidence was there, in the subtext, after all. Aziraphale had very clearly talked about feeling his ribs (Crowley’s biggest point of pride), and called him all kinds of lovely things like skinny and emaciated and skeletal. He couldn’t possibly disapprove of something he used such reverent and positive words for, Crowley reasoned to himself. No, obviously Aziraphale just wanted to feel moral about the situation, while still sending Crowley the subliminal message that the demon was, in fact, doing a good job.
“I understand, angel. And I love you too. I can make you happy, angel.”
“You do, Crowley, you do make me happy.”
Not yet, close but not quite, thought Crowley. If he kept losing a little bit more weight, he’d make the angel so much happier. Crowley just needed to be a little bit skinnier. Well, maybe a little bit more than a little bit. Much skinnier, in fact.
Aziraphale’s conscience would be clear now, having given his adorable sanctimonious speech and not having meant a word of it. And, Crowley knew he could make his angel happy by realizing that the speech was, in fact, very kind angelic bullshite. Underneath all the heavenly posturing, it was obvious that Aziraphale was thrilled with Crowley’s progress, and that he could only be made happier by the demon continuing to persevere in his quest to be thinner and more perfect. Yes, Crowley ruminated, they understood each other quite well indeed.
Chapter 9: Chapter 9 (these titles are so original, huh?)
I’m baaaaack :)
Few quick notes:
- So I kind of wanted Crowley and Aziraphale to have a proper conversation in this chapter, both because I wanted to advance their relationship/understanding of one another and also because I had some specific points about ED’s that I wanted to write and that was the best vehicle to do so.
- Again, most of this is based on my experience with anorexia, and doesn’t apply to everyone as there is no “standard” eating disorder. However, a BIG part of mine was wrestling with contradictory thoughts that, although they contradicted one another, all served to further the ED. I’ve always found that part of the disease fascinating, how it can be based so far outside of logic and yet make perfect sense to the sufferer.
- I’ve made Aziraphale almost therapist-like in how understanding he is both because I do actually like their relationship and want it to be a loving one, and also because that was the best way to then be able to write the dialogue I wanted from Crowley in this chapter.
- as always, no special additional warnings but heed tags and possible triggers. Be safe, and take care of yourself.
At some point following their discussion, Crowley must have fallen back asleep because when he awoke an unknown amount of time later, he was alone. His head pounded and his body ached mercilessly. Crowley concluded this was likely from whatever caused him to pass out earlier, and from hitting the ground when he did.
He realized that he’d need to be careful not to pass out when Aziraphale was around again, it would only lend credence to the angel’s argument that he may be unwell. Of course, Crowley hoped it wouldn’t happen again at all. He definitely didn’t feel like he was thin enough to warrant his body giving out on him like that. Still, prior to this morning’s incident, he had been under the impression that angels and demons were incapable of involuntarily passing out. Perhaps this was just a fluke, or a glitch. It was probably nothing to worry about, he reasoned, it wasn’t like he intended to discorporate himself, and he wasn’t anywhere near that skinny anyway.
He raked his tired eyes over his body, taking note of how the silk pyjamas he’d once worn so handsomely now drowned his too small body. He had always favored tight clothing and fitted clothes tighter as needed via miracle, but had kept the same comfortable pyjamas in the size he’d originally had them for quite some time. He’d love to convince himself it was entirely because they were cozy and lent themselves to being slept-in for that reason, and perhaps this was part of it.
But Crowley also loved feeling how loose clothes that once fit him had become. Like the counting and feeling of his bones, trying on old items of clothing he’d become too small to wear gave him a sense of control. When he was feeling anxious, or not good enough, or like a failure, he could put on these old items of clothing and watch them drape shapelessly over his too slender body and it provided concrete proof that he was not a failure. That he could do something, just one thing (being thinner than he previously was), right.
In the next room, the demon heard Aziraphale humming, and making noises that sounded like he was perhaps cleaning. Aziraphale liked to clean the old fashioned way, though Crowley had never understood the appeal.
Although he was dreading any possible continuation of the conversation earlier, Crowley knew he should probably let the angel know he was awake. Crowley pushed himself up off the bed and drudged towards the door, limbs still feeling shaky and heavy and weak.
“Crowley, dear, how are you feeling, dear? I, well, I wasn’t sure whether you passed out again or fell asleep as it happened rather abruptly... you looked like you needed rest.” Aziraphale looked preternaturally relieved to see Crowley emerge from the bedroom, almost like he hadn’t expected to see it at all.
“Yeah, um, I’m fine, angel. Honestly I don’t even know what that was earlier, it was nothing. But, um, y’know, thanks for taking care of me, getting me to bed and all that.” Crowley was uncharacteristically sheepish in his reply, not knowing quite how to respond, or more importantly where the conversation might be headed. Maybe Aziraphale would drop it and they could pretend it didn’t happen, he hoped.
Aziraphale looked at Crowley with something akin to pity. Crowley did, after all, look pitiful with his hair all disheveled, wearing pyjamas that were (now) several sizes too large for him, and ghostly pale.
“Sit with me? I’ll get you a coffee, dear.” Aziraphale offered gently, before fetching twin coffees, one for each of them, and a solitary pastry for himself.
Crowley obliged and curled himself up on the couch. Aziraphale handed him a black coffee, and watched as Crowley stared at it defensively, as if it were about to attack him. If Aziraphale didn’t know any better, he’d have called the look on Crowley’s face one of suspicion. Crowley couldn’t possibly think the angel would try to trick him, Aziraphale initially assured himself. But upon second glance there was no mistaking the wariness and fear on the demon’s face.
“It’s just a black coffee, I promise. I didn’t do anything to it, dear, I’m not trying to manipulate you or hurt you.” Aziraphale said as sympathetically as he could, though it came out rather downtrodden. The idea of Crowley mistrusting him stung, but Aziraphale had recently read up on how eating disorders manifest, and he’d understood enough of the literature to know that it was exceedingly common for people (and presumably demons) with these diseases to become paranoid that others might try to ‘sabotage’ their efforts.
Crowley felt guilt wash over him. Of course he didn’t want Aziraphale knowing that he was dubious of the coffee he’d been offered (and, by extension, of the angel who’d offered it to him). On the one hand, Crowley truly believed that Aziraphale would love him even more if he were skinnier, and that the angel found every ounce of flesh on the demon’s body grotesque and repulsive. But on the other hand, something in him nagged that, if he was wrong and if Aziraphale really did want to “help”, then Aziraphale might plot against him to make him fat(ter) and destroy everything he’d worked so hard for.
Any rational, healthy brain wouldn’t be able to reconcile these two opposing ideas. The viewpoints were completely at odds with one another, and neither one was based in reality, yet both somehow made perfect sense to the demon within the confines of his own head. Crowley entirely believed both that Aziraphale thought he was disgustingly fat and wanted him to lose more weight, but also that Aziraphale might try to trick him into gaining weight by somehow sneaking calories into his coffee. Crowley hated that even he couldn’t explain his own rationale for believing both things so fiercely. He felt like a passenger in his own mind sometimes, like a helpless victim of these intrusive, obsessive, conflicting thoughts that were designed to keep his mind and body at war with itself.
“I’m just not that thirsty, angel.” Crowley tried to meet Aziraphale’s gaze, but stopped short because he didn’t have to look the angel in his eyes to see how crushed he was, “I’m sorry, angel. I’m so sorry.”
Crowley could have been apologizing for not wanting the coffee, but the quiver in his voice told Aziraphale unmistakably that he was referring to so much more than that. It broke the angel’s heart, as it had several times even just that day already, to watch Crowley struggle with himself like this.
“It’s okay, Crowley. It’s okay, dear. Can we talk? Will you talk to me about it?” Aziraphale wanted desperately to understand. If he could just understand, then he hoped he’d be able to help. The first step would be getting Crowley to open up to him.
“There’s nothing to talk about, angel. I just don’t want a coffee right now. Lots of people don’t want coffee at any given time, right?” Crowley gave a half hearted smile as he tried to sarcastically divert the conversation.
“I’m not talking about the coffee dear, and I don’t think you were when you said you were sorry, either.” Aziraphale firmly, but warmly, pressed, “Let’s start with this morning, what happened? I mean, I know what happened but I want to hear from your perspective.”
Crowley snorted with indignation, “This morning, that, that was nothing. Lost my balance is all, maybe the floor was wet and I slipped or something, I don’t really remember. No big deal at all, could’ve happened to anyone. These corporations are old anyway, bound to malfunction a bit here and there. Could’ve just as well happened to you, angel.”
“Now, we both know that’s isn’t true, Crowley.” Aziraphale sighed. Crowley’s words may have been filled with denial, but the demon’s eyes were apologetic and shame filled, and that was all the confirmation Aziraphale needed, “there was a scale on the floor next to you where you passed out. I didn’t even know we had one, which leads me to believe you were using it, and deliberately hiding that fact from me.”
“That, I, er, ah, um, it’s...” Crowley sputtered for a minute as he panicked to come up with a valid reason why he might have, in fact, done exactly that, “just... I mean I vaguely, once in a while, just to, y’know, find out my um, er, what I weigh. Curiosity, it’s just curiosity, really, and it’s normal, very normal, really, it’s a thing that humans do, and we are in human bodies and so there’s nothing, uh, nothing wrong with that, just uh, um, just checking every so often.”
“Checking for what, exactly, Crowley? It’s obvious that you’ve lost weight over the millennia. Does seeing the number make you feel better?” Upon studying Crowley’s face, Aziraphale added, “or worse?”
Crowley winced, “it’s just information, angel.” Against his better judgement and before he could stop himself, he continued, “It makes me feel briefly, gloriously happy when I see the number go down. But it’s so brief and so fleeting, it’s a high that escapes near immediately because as soon as I look in the mirror or feel my own body all I can perceive is how much gross extra weight I still seem to have all over me. And the smaller the number on the scale gets, the fatter I seem to feel and it makes me want to cry because even though something concrete and scientific is telling me that I’m getting thinner, I can’t ever see it or appreciate it. I still see the same flawed blob of fat no matter what I do, and maybe a part of me is hoping that one day I’ll see a number on that scale small enough to change that perception. I don’t know if that’s even possible, I just know that it hasn’t happened yet.”
As soon as he’d said it Crowley regretted the word-vomit he’d just spewed. It wasn’t untrue, just something he didn’t need Aziraphale hearing for more reasons than one. Crowley wasn’t sure what reaction he expected from the angel, he feared that Aziraphale would mock him, or perhaps think he was crazy, or (worst of all) that the angel would openly agree with him that he was fat no matter what he did or what the scale said.
It was one thing for Crowley to think he was fat, and even for Crowley to imagine and believe that Aziraphale thought the demon was fat as well. But Crowley felt incredibly raw, exposed, and terrified at the possibility that Aziraphale might verbally confirm his worst fear. Crowley didn’t think he could handle it, and didn’t know what he’d do, if Aziraphale actually verbally agreed that he thought the demon was fat. Crowley had never been so scared of anything in his entire life, which was saying something since his life had included an actual battle against Satan himself.
“The scale, the number it tells you, it’s underweight by human standards...” It was more of a statement than a question since Aziraphale had eyes and already knew the answer was yes, but Crowley nodded uncomfortably in confirmation anyway, “so you must know you are damaging your corporation, regardless of what you think you see or feel. We are in human bodies, like you said yourself, and although ours are more resilient than is typical of a human, they’re not infallible, Crowley.”
“I’m just not that thin, angel. Whatever the stupid scale says. It’s wrong. I’m not thin enough to warrant concern. I wish I were, trust me, I would be so much happier if I were that skinny. But it’s not like I didn’t have weight to lose in the first place. And I’ve still got plenty to spare, unfortunately, regardless of what any scale has to say about it. I can just feel the weight all over me all the time. I’m not sick and my corporation is fine, if heavier than I’d like it to be, okay?”
Aziraphale, for his part, felt absolutely devastated hearing Crowley speak so vulnerably about what he went through and how he felt about himself. It made no sense at all to the angel, and yet it made perfect sense because he could see how very sick Crowley’s mind was as he talked. The demon was, of course, very dangerously distorted in his perception. Aziraphale, as an outsider, could see what Crowley obviously could not, that he was indeed far too thin and making himself very ill.
Aziraphale would have much preferred for the love of his life to be healthy. He missed seeing the demon with color in his face, and he missed the way his eyes used to shine like a serpentine sun (they were now hollow and lifeless like the rest of him). Not ever, not even once, since they’d been on this planet had Aziraphale ever thought Crowley needed to lose weight. Very much on the contrary, Aziraphale had even thought the body Crowley had originally been issued was a bit slimmer than strictly necessary, but beautiful regardless. Aziraphale tried but didn’t really understand how someone could view themselves with such an incredible level of inaccuracy.
“Oh, Crowley, that’s just not true. You are very sick, dear.” Aziraphale paused, then inquired with a purposeful tone, “Can I ask what you think of me?”
“What I, huh? What I think of you? Angel, I love you. When have I made you feel any different?” Crowley seemed hurt by the question and answered rather defensively.
“I mean, what do you think of my corporation, my body, dear?” Aziraphale really was insistent on continuing this line of questioning.
“I told you, angel, I think you are the most beautiful thing I have ever seen. You are glorious. Are you still concerned about that? I love your body, I love everything about you.”
“But you’d be disgusted if you had my body, obviously. I’m legitimately chubby, Crowley. It’s not a good thing or a bad one, just a fact. You’re severely underweight and still not satisfied. You must have been disgusted when we swapped?”
“It’s different. Your body is perfect, Aziraphale, angel, it’s perfect.” Crowley emphasized the word ‘angel’ differently than usual. In this rare case, he used it more as a pointed descriptor than a pet name.
“Why is it different? You’d hate yourself if you had my body.”
“It’s different because I hate myself anyway. It’s different because it’s ME.” Crowley snapped.
A look of compassion crossed Aziraphale’s face and he softly put his hand on Crowley’s bony shoulder in a gesture of comfort.
“Oh my dear. I’m so afraid for you, and I do want to help. I won’t force you, I’ve read that pushing too hard in situations like these can make the situation worse. Can you talk me through it, though? Why do you feel this way?”
“I told you, because I’m fat, angel.”
“No, no, no you’re not. And no, that’s also not why you feel the way you do.”
“I just, it’s... complicated.”
“I want to listen.”
“I meant, it’s complicated for me. It’s complicated because I hate myself, and I feel like everything in me is a mess of contradictions, and I feel like I’m never good enough and that I’m worthless. I told you once, I’m unforgivable. I’m unloveable. But I don’t feel that way, like, I don’t WANT to feel that way, y’know. I feel like there’s something in me that is redeemable but I just can’t reach it. And the only way I know how to get close to that is by being thin. Losing weight means that I’m good at something, that I’m good FOR something. Being skinny means I’m worthy. And it feels like an accomplishment in that way, but like I said my thoughts are one big contradictory jumble, because it also feels like punishment. Like a punishment I deserve and WANT. Like a punishment I need so fucking badly, because there are these deep dark parts of myself that I hate so much I just want to starve them all away. I want those awful, rejected, disgraceful parts of me to suffer and wither. And so it’s like a positive thing and a negative thing all at once, and it’s exactly which of those things I need it to be when I need it. Even I don’t understand it entirely because it operates outside of logical principles. But I know that I hate myself both more and less the more weight I lose, and I’m addicted to that contradiction.”
“I understand,” Aziraphale started, and Crowley raised his eyebrows a tiny bit incredulously, “well, no, I don’t,” Crowley smirked a tiny bit at that and Aziraphale continued, “but I do hear what you’re saying and I can try to process what it means to you, even if it doesn’t make sense to me. Crowley, I love you. Very much. And I wish that telling you that, or telling you how wonderful and worthy you are, would have any bearing on how you feel about yourself, but I know that it won’t. It’s not about me, I know that, this about you and what’s in your head. You need to recognize your worth for yourself, I can’t make you see that.”
“I know, but I can’t. The only thing I have, angel, the only thing I can point to that says ‘I’m good enough’ is the number of bones I can see through my skin.” Crowley looked at Aziraphale and was met with nothing but empathy, “But anyway, thank you, angel. For trying to understand. For not judging me or hating me. Having you listen, it’s nice. It means a lot, honestly.”
“I could never hate you, my dear, and I would never ever judge you. I will, however, worry about you. That part I can’t help.”
Crowley bit his lip and cast his eyes down to the floor as Aziraphale got up to bring his empty cup and Crowley’s full one over to the sink. As kind as the angel had been, Crowley didn’t want Aziraphale to worry about him. After all, he wasn’t worth worrying about.
Chapter 10: Chapter 10
Quick notes, because I love those:
- So this chapter features more understanding!Aziraphale because Crowley deserves an awesome boyfriend, but also because using Aziraphale as a kinda therapist type sounding board helps me be able to work through my own thoughts. It’s a device to let Crowley open up, which is essentially just me rambling about my own issues and the way they manifest for me. Projection-city!
- this chapter is actually kinda sweet in parts. I think it’s important to explore different ways of looking at the ED, so I also tried to come at it from that angle. Not a warning necessarily, kinda the opposite, but just a note that this one is more just therapeutic and useful for me as opposed to ultra-dark like some of the other chapters.
- I’m also kinda modeling Aziraphale’s responses on how my dad handled my ED... he was always really understanding and like, really tried to understand the concept of triggers and how even if he didn’t understand why, certain things could make it worse. And like, he would cry sometimes when he’d hug me because it scared him, but he’d never push me away if he could tell I needed it. And so I wanted to model Aziraphale’s behavior on someone who was really distressed but also loved the other person enough to put that aside and comfort them with the hug at the end. I always really valued that in him so I was lucky for a long time that I had someone who tried to be sensitive to my needs. So idk that part of Aziraphale’s characterization and reactions here comes from someone I know.
- as always, please be safe, heed tagged warnings, and take care of yourself. Sending love to you all.
When Aziraphale returned to the living room, he sat down beside Crowley once more, looking less done with their conversation that the demon had hoped.
“I’m trying to understand...” the angel started, gently reaching out to stroke Crowley’s shoulder again in a gesture of compassion, “I mean I’m getting some of it, your anorexia...”
Crowley cut Aziraphale off mid-sentence, sharply and with shame filled eyes, “please don’t say that.”
“Say what, dearest?”
“Anorexia, just... don’t call it that. Please.”
“Crowley, my dear, listen to me. It’s important that you admit that you’re ill. I’m not making you DO anything differently, well, yet anyway, but you can’t continue to deny that you have a problem. Cliched or not, that is a first step, and you’ll have to take it at some point.”
“That word is for sick people, Aziraphale. It’s for really, really thin people.” Crowley shot back, looking defensive.
“I’m completely aware of that, Crowley. You are both of those things. You have anorexia, my dear.”
“I just... I hate... hearing it. It makes the thoughts in my head worse, hearing the word anorexia, it uh, it just makes me feel like I haven’t ‘earned’ the use of that word... y’know, in regard to me. It’s probably stupid, but it makes me feel so unworthy and so inadequate because it makes me compare myself to other people, to people that I would consider ‘anorexic’ and I just don’t measure up to that ideal in my mind.” The tone in Crowley’s voice was apologetic, and his shoulders relaxed a little under Aziraphale’s touch. He knew the angel was only trying to help, but it made his skin crawl to be reminded just how much of a failure he was.
“Oh, oh no my dear, it’s not stupid. It’s not stupid at all. “ Aziraphale said with a dawning realization, “In fact, I think what you’re describing is called a ‘trigger’, as humans would say. It’s something that, for whatever reason, makes your thoughts or behaviors worse. I’ve been doing a bit of reading on this sort of thing as of late. I do still want you to come to the conclusion that what you’re doing is unhealthy, but I’m so sorry for trying to force you to do it in that way. And thank you for letting me know that it bothers you, it’s important that you do tell me when these types of things come up so I don’t say something that inadvertently puts you in a worse state of mind.”
The corners of Crowley’s mouth quivered upwards in genuine appreciation. He knew how impossibly lucky he was to have a partner like Aziraphale, because if nothing else it was clear that the angel was trying his best. His angel deserved the best in return. Crowley wished he could give the angel the best of himself, but the demon felt and feared that even at his best he would never really be good enough to be what Aziraphale deserved. It was that thought that wiped the half smile he’d had for a moment from his face and again replaced it with a look of despair.
Aziraphale had watched that tiny smile creep onto the demon’s face, only to see it ripped away and replaced with pain again a moment later. Oh, how he wished he could fix whatever was broken in Crowley’s head. Crowley deserved so much love, and Aziraphale wanted to badly to give it to him. The angel was dismayed, however, that the love he tried to give Crowley never seemed to linger for more than a few moments before the demon’s own self doubt sunk back in.
Aziraphale started once more, “So I won’t use that word, dear, but I was trying to ask you when I came back in the room... I’m trying to understand better, and I think I’m getting pieces of what you have been saying. This thing, you starving yourself, it doesn’t seem to really be about weight. Or, at least, maybe not only about weight. I mean, I do believe that you like that your body is unhealthily and skeletally thin, and that’s a very distorted thing, and we absolutely need to address that...”
Aziraphale paused for a moment as Crowley bit his lower lip and nodded a bit in admission that he did, in fact, like being underweight. Aziraphale winced, hating the visual confirmation Crowley had given him, but the angel continued, “You seem to be able to see me appropriately, however, and the simple fact is I’m a bit chubby, yet you still love me and you even claim you’re physically attracted to me..”
Crowley cut the angel off once again, “I am, angel. Aziraphale, I don’t ‘claim’ to be attracted to you. I am wildly, madly attracted to you. You are the most perfect being I have ever seen, please don’t think I ‘claim’ anything. If there’s one true thing in this world, it’s that I love you and everything inside and outside of you.”
Aziraphale allowed himself to be flattered by that and smiled genuinely, “Yes, dear, I know. I trust that. That’s exactly the point I’m making. Based on that, and everything else you’ve said, I think it sounds like you’re using your thinness as a physical manifestation of a deeper problem. You’re projecting something psychological, and using your weight as a means to do that. What I mean is, your standards are different for you than me, and for your body than mine, I get that. But why? Because your body has to, what? Reflect something inside you? Or... correct something inside you? Am I close? How does one thing equate to the other in your head? I’m trying to understand, because I can’t help you if I don’t know what it is you’re really fighting against. Do you think you can help it make better sense to me, dear, is there a way for you to put the correlation of your weight and feelings into layman’s terms?”
Aziraphale watched as Crowley looked genuinely pensive over this. The demon didn’t look affronted by the question, and he didn’t look guarded about it, he just looked like it had never quite occurred to him. Aziraphale just waited and watched, observing that the demon was earnestly searching for an answer.
As it happened, in this instance the outward appearance directly matched the inward thoughts as Crowley seriously considered how to reply to such a request. He didn’t, in this moment, want to deflect or change the subject. He genuinely wanted to come up with an answer for Aziraphale that might help make some sense of his thoughts, for both his own benefit and the benefit of the angel. The problem was simply how to best do that. Admittedly, he was less ‘book smart’ than Aziraphale (another of his own shortcomings, he noted), and so he had to really concentrate to find an adequate metaphor. After a few minutes, he had an analogy in mind that he hoped would make some sense.
“It’s, er, it’s like... um, well, it’s maybe... thing is, you see... I’m not good at this, angel, at explaining and coming up with fancy metaphors, and I think I kind of have something, but, I mean, it’s not a perfect analogy, okay?”
“It’s okay, Crowley. I’m listening. I won’t judge you. Anything you can tell me is helpful, dear, it doesn’t have to be perfect. Please, just tell me your thoughts. I want to listen.”
“Ah, well, the closest thing I can come up with... you know, to uh, liken it to... is um, it’s like... er, it’s a little like currency. Like humans use money, perhaps. A little.” Crowley looked to Aziraphale for some type of indication as to whether it came out sounding as entirely daft as he felt saying it.
Aziraphale merely gave him an encouraging look and said, “Good, dear, that’s very good. It’s a concept I definitely grasp, human currency. I appreciate that aspect of the metaphor, that I have some understanding of it. You’re doing great. Please do go on. Can you explain in what way it’s like currency?”
Crowley blushed with what little color his face could muster at Aziraphale’s endorsement, and continued a little more emboldendly because of it, “so with everyone else, with you and your body, for example... I just see weight as a descriptor. It’s just a trait, no different than eye color or hair color. I can love your body and be very attracted to you and yes, even PREFER you a little on the softer side, because there’s no hidden and additional meaning to it when I regard you and your body. But it’s different with me, because for me thinness is like a type of currency... the thing with currency is, well, it has value, right? And humans, if they need something, or they lack something, they can use the valuable thing, the currency, to buy what they need or lack. Yes?”
“Yes, okay. I get that.” Aziraphale nodded, indicating that he was, so far, following Crowley’s train of thought.
“Right.... okay so, I think being thin feels like, uh, it feels like a type of currency... to me... in that way. Like, um, like there are all of these things about me that I hate, and um, er, that are so bad and so... dark. I mean I’m an actual fallen angel, for a start, I’m a reject, by definition. I’m a disgusting vile creature, I’m an actual demon. I am unforgivable, and unlovable, and disgraceful. I hate all of those things and I hate myself for embodying them, but they’re inside me all the time no matter what I do and sometimes it just hurts, angel, it hurts so damn bad and...”. Crowley paused a moment to collect himself, his emotions were overtaking him and he really was trying to stay on-subject, “but it’s, that’s not the point. Um, the metaphor... so it’s like those, the bad qualities, are things about me that don’t have value... or worse, they have negative value, they take away any good value I have. And so I sort of use my version of currency, which holds value, remember, to fill those voids. And my version of currency is thinness. It’s like being thin is my way of ‘making up for’ these horrible things about me... it’s like I’m trying to buy redemption with being thin as my money... Does any of that make any sense or did I just muck it up worse?”
“No, I mean yes. No, you didn’t muck it up Crowley, and yes it did make sense. Certainly more sense than I had about it before. So you view others being thin or fat as just a physical attribute. But, you think that your thinness has some deeper value, and you are trying to use that value to cover up parts of yourself that you feel are undesirable. Parts you feel have no value. Yes?”
“Uh, yeah. Yeah, that’s basically it. I mean, that’s the best way I know how to put it, I think. And it’s pretty close to how it feels.”
“Okay, that’s helpful. Crowley, that was amazing. Really, you need to know that. Thank you for helping me see more of how this is playing out in your head because it’s important that I know.”
“Er, yeah, of course angel. Look I do love you and I appreciate that you care. I mean I don’t even necessarily want you to care, because I don’t think it’s necessary, but uh, it also feels really nice to know you do.”
Aziraphale looked contemplative for a moment, then asked, “dear, if I wanted to make a point to you, would you say the metaphor you just used is close enough to accurate that you’d be able to accept and understand the point I’m making if I use that analogy to explain?”
Crowley snorted and, for the first time that day, grinned sarcastically, “you’re going to use my own metaphor against me now, angel?”
Aziraphale smiled fondly back, it was a relief to see the demon being at least a little receptive to Aziraphale’s care, “not against you, my dear. Never against you. I’m on your side, OUR side.”
Crowley laughed a small, but genuine, laugh and nodded for Aziraphale to make his point.
Aziraphale continued, “It occurs to me, Crowley, dear, that you’re forgetting a fundamental and crucial element of the value inherent in currency... money has no intrinsic quality making it valuable, it’s just paper. It has value because people, MORE than one person, AGREE that it does. A person can’t just print up a new kind of money on a normal piece of paper and go to a store and make a purchase with it, dear. Rather, it has to be properly sanctioned and certified money, and agreed upon that this particular piece of paper is worth this particular amount. What I’m saying is, you’re trying to use money that only holds value to you. Nobody else, Crowley, especially not me, thinks that your thinness has the value that you think it does. If I don’t agree that it’s worth the same thing you think it’s worth, for instance, and neither does anyone else you may encounter... well, then it’s not serving the purpose you want it to serve, or filling any void anyone else might see in you. Then you’re just starving yourself, and it’s not even achieving what you want it to achieve.”
Crowley swallowed thickly. Within the context of the metaphor Aziraphale did make sense, despite the intrusive thoughts in the demon’s brain screaming at him that the angel was, in fact, crazy.
“Then how am I supposed to do it, Aziraphale? I love you so much but I live every day afraid that today will be the day you realize that I’m just not good enough for you. It won’t be your fault, and I won’t blame you when you do. But you deserve perfection, because you ARE perfection, and I’m just... I’m just not that. I never will be. And I’m so, so sorry. Because I’d do anything to change that. But it’s just not who I am.”
“Oh, Crowley, my dear, dear Crowley. You are already good enough. I don’t see any of those bad things you said about yourself in you. You’re the only person who views yourself in such a harsh light, my love. You are not demonic and I am not angelic, and we are both free of those bonds and we never fit them in the first place, my dear. I’m the luckiest being on the planet earth, I always have been, and I’m luckier than you Crowley. Do you know why? Because I HAVE you. You have been my rock, and my companion, and my savior more times than one. You are not inherently bad, you do not have some dark disgusting nature about you, you are far more good than any of the damned archangels for, well, someone’s sake. Never let a title or stereotype define your own self image because it is just wrong my love, you are so wrong about all of those awful things you said.”
Crowley looked like his face was about to crumple into tears, but Aziraphale couldn’t quite decipher if they were to be good or bad ones.
“Please don’t lie to me, angel. Do you mean all of that?” Crowley eventually managed to squeak out, voice barely above a whisper.
Aziraphale cupped his face and forced Crowley to look him in the eyes and repeated the phrase Crowley had used earlier, “if there’s one true thing in this world, darling.”
Crowley looked overwhelmed as he curled his whole body in to Aziraphale to hug him. Although it really did distress the angel to embrace the demon’s emaciated form, he knew better than to pull away in this moment. Crowley needed this. So, Aziraphale held him as tightly as he felt he could without hurting him, and soothingly stroked his crimson hair.
Chapter 11: Chapter 11
Sorry for the delay, been depressed these past few days and lacking motivation for almost everything in my life. Ugh. Anyway...
- In this chapter we kinda see the point where Crowley has to have that realization that he needs help and that he’s willing to try to get better... this is a big moment for those with ED’s and it’s important that the conversations surrounding it and suggesting it are understanding and supportive, not accusatory.
- for that reason, I’ve again kept Aziraphale characterized as very understanding and supportive, and probably more sensitive than the responses that many experience when others are trying to handle their ED’s. It is important to me to try and showcase what a healthy and positive support system can look like and how that is really crucial to success with these diseases and similar ones
- although Crowley does admit he needs Aziraphale’s help and that he wants to try to get better, anyone with an ED knows that the struggle does not end there, AT ALL. I’d argue that’s where the struggle sometimes gets worse, because it throws the ED into a panic, and the disorder has a compulsion to fight against recovery.
- So, still slow burning this sucker, Crowley isn’t out of the woods yet, but chapters like this are necessary in order to move him to dealing with the recovery process phase of the story, which will be more intense again and very relevant to me as far as a cathartic medium since I’m currently (trying) to recover, myself.
- all that is to say that, this chapter seems slightly more loving/sappy in spots. It’s sweet. Enjoy it before poor Crowley has to battle himself over trying to recover, because based on my own experience that’s going to be rather painful.
- as always, tagged warnings are to keep you safe and in a good headspace. Please be aware of them. I really do care about anyone reading this... these types of issues can be isolating and they’re so difficult. Just want you all to know that you’re loved and you matter.
Aziraphale felt his resolve beginning to break a little bit as he held Crowley’s bony body in his arms. With his nose nuzzling the demon’s neck, and a tear running lightly down his cheek, Aziraphale choked out, “I wanted to spend forever with you, Crowley.”
Crowley pulled away looking hurt and confused, “You said you wouldn’t leave me, angel, you promised. I knew I shouldn’t have told you all that. I should’ve known you’d leave, I’m so stupid, I...”
Aziraphale shushed him and grabbed his hands to hold them, “No, no dear. I’m not leaving you, Crowley. Not ever.”
“Oh.” Crowley said weakly, then realized what Aziraphale must have meant, “Angel, Heaven and Hell are leaving us alone. For now, for the foreseeable future... probably forever. If that’s what you’re worried about, I don’t think it’ll be a problem. We’re okay, we survived. And, my angel, I want to spend forever with you, too.”
Aziraphale gave him a pained half smile, “Yes, dear, I do rather think our connections to heaven and hell are severed. Which is exactly my point.”
Crowley gave him an inquisitive look, clearly not knowing where Aziraphale was headed with this. But, he gestured for the angel to continue.
“Crowley, I wish we could spend forever together. How lucky are we, we could have eternity here, on earth, together. That’s such a rare and precious chance and I wanted us to have that.”
“We can, angel. You and me, forever. There’s nothing stopping us.” Crowley didn’t quite know why Aziraphale seemed to think they couldn’t, unless the angel did intend to leave the demon, which he’d sworn just moments before that he didn’t.
“Yes, dear, there is. It’s not heaven or hell that will stop us, it’s you. You’re leaving me.”
Crowley stared at the angel with his mouth gaping open for a moment, then refuted, “That won’t ever happen, Aziraphale. I love you. I’ve never left you, ever, and I’m not about to start now. Angel, I promise I will spend the rest of time by your side, it’s all I’ve ever wanted.”
“You’re not understanding me, darling. Crowley, we won’t age or die unless something happens to us. We have eternal life, unless we get ourselves discorporated. But we are more human than we have ever been right now, because you are quite right, dear, heaven and hell have abandoned us. Crowley you are starving yourself to the point of discorporation, and you need to really hear and know this... hell won’t issue you another body. You won’t get to come back, Crowley, no second chances. You’ll just be dead. If I lose you, I lose you forever, dearest. I see how sickly and fragile you are and I’m so afraid, Crowley, that if I can’t get through to you, I’ll be forced to watch you die someday. And forced to spend an eternity knowing that I couldn’t save you.” Aziraphale said with such heartache in his voice that Crowley felt his own heart break in response.
Crowley’s large yellow eyes darted down to his lap, he couldn’t bear to look at the angel’s tearful face.
“Butwhatifigetbetterandyourealizeyoudontlovemeifimhealthy?” Crowley mumbled very quickly and timidly.
It wasn’t, however, quite so muffled that Aziraphale hadn’t understood.
“Do you believe that, dearest? Are you afraid that I won’t love you if you’re not sick?”
“It’s not about you, angel. It’s just... I’m not good enough for you without this. If I’m not thin, if I’m not THIS thin... then you’d deserve someone better.”
“Crowley, WHY do you love me so much?” Aziraphale asked, emphasizing the ‘why’ pointedly.
Crowley couldn’t fathom why Aziraphale would ask such a thing, he’d thought he had always let the angel know that there wasn’t anything he didn’t love about him. Still, he obliged.
“Angel, the first time I met you in Eden... you gave away your flaming sword, a weapon forged for YOU by the ALMIGHTY Herself, presumably to arm you for battle. But you took the very first chance you were ever given on Earth to be compassionate, and gave it to humans who had recently been rejected by God. Even though God cast them out, you, Aziraphale, YOU showed them mercy, and kindness. They were human, they were below you, yet you didn’t look down on them. And I thought...” Crowley’s tongue caught in his throat a bit here, and he felt his mouth dry up with nerves about what he was about to say, “I don’t know, it sounds so stupid. It’s... I... I saw myself. In them. In that moment, I thought, there they go, away from God, into unknown dangers, cast out of paradise, just like I was. All I wanted was knowledge, my crime was asking questions, so it was a little too on the nose that eating from the tree of knowledge was their crime. And then, here’s this angel. This beautiful, magnificent angel with the brightest smile I’d ever seen in the few moments you let me catch a glimpse of it on that wall in Eden together. And I just thought... I don’t know, I thought, maybe this warm-hearted, forgiving angel who showed them love when Heaven couldn’t... I mean, it’s so stupid, but I just thought... this angel is so different from the others, maybe he could be the only one in heaven OR hell, for that matter, to accept me... to love me.”
“Oh Crowley, you never told me...”
Crowley cut the angel off, “I know, and that was long winded and I have so much more to say but I just thought you should know the exact moment I knew I loved you. But angel, it has only intensified since then, because everything I thought you’d be was right. You’re so smart, I love how much you love reading and your books, it’s adorable even if it intimidates me that I’m not as bright. You’re gentle, you're strong, you’re innocent. And I mean all those things in the best way possible. I love you for so many reasons, angel.”
“And I love you, Crowley. You think far too highly of me in some ways, but I suppose that’s what love is all about, after all. Seeing the best in someone. I notice you didn’t say that you loved me for my body.”
“Angel, I love your body so much. I didn’t mean to NOT say that. You’re beautiful, and perfect. Your body is so cuddly and warm and I just want to cocoon myself in your arms for hours on end. You have the loveliest, brightest eyes that twinkle in a way I’ve never seen anyone else replicate. Your hair is the softest thing I’ve ever felt, and shines like a halo, even on this mortal plane. You are stunning, your body is a work of art, Aziraphale.”
Aziraphale hadn’t strictly needed to let Crowley go on like that, it wasn’t relevant to his point and was rather self indulgent to listen to. The angel was actually trying to help his friend, not elicit compliments, but he couldn’t deny that it was sweet to hear Crowley speak so reverently of him. Still, the angel had a point to make.
“I know you feel that way, Crowley. I wasn’t complaining that you hadn’t mentioned my looks, I was pointing it out to you for a reason. Crowley, I asked you WHY you loved me. And your response, your first one, was perfect. It wasn’t about my looks, and it SHOULDN’T be. Of course you can love my body and be attracted to me, and I’m glad you are, but the REASON you love me, by your own admission, has nothing to do with that. You love me for who I am, for the things I do, for how I feel about and treat you. THOSE are the truly important things about loving someone. Has it ever occurred to you that I don’t love you FOR your appearance? Perhaps, as is the fact right now if I’m being very blunt, I actually love you in SPITE of your appearance?”
Crowley recoiled a bit at that, looking hurt and obviously ignoring the rest of what was said, in favor of latching on to the last sentence out of Aziraphale’s mouth.
Aziraphale saw how Crowley had taken and mentally twisted his meaning. It was unfathomable how easy it was for these disorders to invade one’s thoughts and skew the truth.
“Crowley, that’s not what I mean. I can tell just by reading your face that this is one of those trigger moments for you. I want to clarify, dearest, so you understand. You were so beautiful, in Eden, the first time I saw you. Before you’d had time to hurt your body so badly. I remember your adorable toothy grin, the snake eyes you’d not yet learned to hide. I liked that, they were so natural and so you. I like your hair in the many styles you’ve had, but I remember how healthy it looked, how shiny and full of life in Eden. You had lovely high cheekbones, but your cheeks underneath them weren’t yet sunken or gaunt. Your body was so lovely, slender, elegant, serpentine. But it was a good slim, with lean muscle and an enviable flat torso. You’d hardly have needed to be that slim, for my preference, but it was gorgeous because it was exactly how you were supposed to look. It was healthy and natural, it fit you, you weren’t making yourself sick to achieve it.”
Crowley bit his lip but didn’t say anything, so Aziraphale continued.
“When I said I love you in spite of your appearance, my dear, I didn’t mean that you’re not beautiful. You are, you will always be beautiful to me. But if I’m being very honest, seeing you so sick and so thin isn’t what I find ‘attractive’. They’re different things, my darling. Right now, I love you deeply but I can’t say that I am attracted to the way you look. I hate to see your skin stretched so tightly over your protruding bones, it makes me feel like you could already be dead. It scares me and it makes me sad, and it’s not what I’m ‘into’ at all if that’s what you’re worried about, dear.”
Crowley met Aziraphale’s gaze but his expression remained contemplative and unreadable.
“Yeah, um, I mean I think you kinda said that earlier. I thought it was... uh, er, you know, angelic stuff. Like you couldn’t actually say you wanted me sick, on account of you being an angel and that being, erm, not good.” Crowley sheepishly admitted. Now that he was more awake he could sense the earnestness in Aziraphale’s speech, and was beginning to believe that maybe the angel hadn’t been lying to him earlier.
“Oh Crowley, how could you believe that?” Aziraphale sounded appalled, but then realized that, in TELLING him this, Crowley had put some level of trust in him and opened up, so the angel knew he needed to proceed delicately, “I’m sorry, dear, I didn’t mean to sound so upset. It’s just that I would never lie to you about this sort of thing. And I know the voice in your head may tell you that you look good being this thin. Or, maybe it doesn’t. Maybe it tells you you’ll only look good once you’re even thinner. That voice is the one lying to you, dearest, not me. I appreciate that you were vulnerable and open enough to tell me that, though, because now I know one thought I can help you fight. I am an angel, and, yes, of course, I am incredibly worried about your health. I fear you are very close to discorporation and it makes me want to cry seeing your ribs on the outside of your body, a place they are very clearly not meant to be. However, my preferences about your body, and the fact that I want you to look healthy, and be at a normal weight, it can even be a slim normal if that makes you more comfortable... at least attraction wise, those are completely selfish and hedonistic preferences. There’s nothing angelic or righteous about those thoughts, Crowley, I assure you.” Aziraphale finished, grinning at Crowley with a look that could only be described, ironically, as (dare he think it) devilish.
“Oh. OH.” Crowley shifted his jaw as a cheeky smile of his own formed on his face, “wow, angel. That’s one way to motivate your besotted demon.”
Aziraphale laughed, but watched as Crowley’s face darkened slightly in the wake of their momentary banter.
“I mean, I get it. Love isn’t about appearance, and I know that. But neither are eating disorders.” Crowley held up a hand to stop Aziraphale from the interruption he knew the angel was dying to make, “Yes, okay, I said it. I admit it, I still don’t want to use the word anorexia about me, but I can admit that I have an eating disorder. And yes, I can see that you’re chuffed about me finally admitting that and it’s rather annoying. I know I’m sick, Aziraphale but it’s not about appearance... not really, not primarily, at least. I’m afraid... I mean, you don’t know me without this disease. I don’t really know me without it, I mean it’s been so long that I can hardly remember what it felt like NOT to be ill. NOT to wrestle with the thoughts in my head. What if I get better and you don’t like the demon underneath? What if I don’t like the demon underneath? Maybe all the bad parts of me have been kept at bay by my starvation and thinness, and maybe it’ll all come creeping up to the surface, all of the nasty parts of me that I feel lurking deep inside. I’m scared to get better, because I don’t know what it will be like. Because I don’t know what I will be like. And because YOU don’t know what I’ll be like.”
“Crowley, I loved you for a long time, but the first time I fully realized it and was honest with myself about it was in the church during the Blitz. We’d had a fight the last time we saw one another, and yet, completely unexpectedly and without any prompting you show up. Out of the blue. Somewhere that was very dangerous for you to be. Just to save me. You put yourself through pain and suffering for me, even after I walked away from you, because that’s who you are and what you’re like Crowley. You continually go out of your way to make my existence easier and to save me, despite that having been the precise opposite of your job description at the time. Because you care, because you have so much goodness inside you. You were too good for heaven, Crowley, I’m convinced of it. They couldn’t understand your empathy for me, or for humanity. I knew I loved you in that church when I witnessed the most incredible act of courage and selflessness I’d ever seen in you risking your life in order to save mine. That had nothing to do with your disease Crowley. You weren’t any more courageous or selfless because you’d been starving yourself. Your kindness, your bravery, those things came from inside you, NOT outside. Those qualities were NOT caused by or correlated to your weight. Those are the things I love about you, Crowley, and those will be there without this illness. They’ll be there when you’re healthy, I promise. Because those are who you really are.”
Crowley’s brows furrowed, not in sadness but in a look of being genuinely, deeply touched, “I’d do anything for you, Aziraphale, I’d happily risk discorporation for you. It, um, this is embarrassing, but it means a lot. You, uh, just hearing... you know, how you felt. About me. And that night. I think about that night a lot, and it meant a lot to me... it’s, er, it’s really nice to know the night, at that church, meant a lot to you too.”
“It did. And you’ve proven many times that your risk discorporation for me, my dear. But Crowley, I’m not in any danger. And you’re still risking discorporation anyway. You’re risking it with everything to lose, with our future together to lose, if you don’t get your human body healthy. Please, Crowley. This one time, please. Let me try to help save YOU. Please don’t let this disease you have be the thing you finally end up dying for. I’m here and I want to help you through this, help you get well. Just this once, let me help you save your own life, my dear.”
Crowley nodded pensively, letting Aziraphale’s words, all of them, sink in. After several minutes of both the angel and demon contemplating the entirety of their conversations, and how to best move forward, Crowley shakily concluded, “I think, I mean... it’s hard, angel, I won’t know where to start. I don’t know how to even begin to, but... I just... I love you. And I don’t want to die... but I’m scared to get better. But I know there’s not really a third option, I’ll die eventually if I don’t. Uh, don’t get better, that is. And I mean... I don’t know, I don’t WANT to get better but... I know I have to. I can’t leave you, that’s what I really don’t want. But, uh, I’m, er, im not sure... how to get well. I do need your help, angel. I’d, um, I’d like your help.”
Aziraphale smiled with more fondness and pride than he thought had even crossed his features before, “Dearest, I love you so very much. I’m so proud of you for realizing that you need and want to accept help, Crowley. That’s an amazing and admirable thing, it takes so much strength just to acknowledge that you need help. We will figure this out. You and me. You can do this, and I will help you. I’m here, my love, and we will get you through this.”
Chapter 12: Chapter 12
Quick notes :)
- this chapter has a bit more struggling again, after a few fluffier chapters (although this one does get a bit happier again toward the end of the chapter). Eating disorders get better and worse, and often when people first attempt recovery they get triggered even worse than before. It’s like it sends the ED into a panic. At least, it did for me.
- there’s a scene (is that the word for it lol) in this chapter that is extremely personal for me, literally something I did when I was first trying to recover. I won’t say what part it is because if I describe it now, it’ll spoil it for you in the chapter, but you’ll know it when you read it, I’m 99% sure. It’s weird the really specific moments you remember vividly in life, and this was one of those moments where I shocked myself so deeply and thoroughly and felt so out-of-body doing it, that to this day it haunts me to know just how deeply ingrained my ED was at that time. It’s actually one of the moments I most regret in my entire life, which sounds weird, but it was my dad in Aziraphale’s position when I did this, and it was me in Crowley’s, and I could see how much I scared my dad for the first time in my life. I mean yes, how much the hold on me the disease had scared him, but also the fact that I was so unhinged because of the disease that for the absolute briefest of moments, I scared him. Like, I think he was scared OF me. And I’ve never really gotten over that. (He’s passed away now, making it an even more regrettable memory for me).
- Aziraphale is, again, lovely and understanding and supportive because I think we all deserve someone life Aziraphale in our lives, and Crowley certainly does. So I’ve made him be really wonderful even though people in real life don’t always respond as understandingly, simply because I adore caring!Aziraphale and I wanted him characterized that way.
- I included that specific scene for two reasons... the first, that it was therapeutic for me to write about, plain and simple. The second, because it provides a plot device within the chapter. It helps separate the first part of Aziraphale and Crowley’s conversation from the second part, and shows the difference in Crowley’s reaction to the two different approaches Aziraphale takes when trying to address the struggles he’s having. I wanted to show that, when the focus is on weight and apppearance and fear of fat, it’s harder to change the behaviors and combat these because that’s what the disorder relies on. But when the underlying issues and feelings are the focus of the discussion, it’s a more powerful way to fight the disorder and change behavior.
- also one last quick note that, yes, I didn’t really address the idea of possible referring syndrome, and angel food cake isn’t exactly a nutritious first food to try. I’m going to go ahead and headcanon that angels/demons wouldn’t have to worry about refeeding syndrome the way humans do simply because it isn’t really useful to the story as I’m telling it, or to my personal catharsis, to bother explaining and including it. And, I could’ve chosen something more nutritious than angel food cake and, for the record, if you are trying to recover I do not recommend that that’s what you pick to try and eat right off the bat but literally I had the important pieces of the chapter written already and was just stumped for a food to have Crowley trying to eat, and I thought I remembered it being book canon that he ordered an angel food cake and Aziraphale ate it but at least it was mentioned so I just went with that. Please see a nutritionist if you are actually trying to refeed, this is definitely not medical or nutritional advice.
Okay, on with this chapter :)
Several hours later, Crowley was sat grimacing at a piece of angel food cake that had remained untouched for over an hour. He’d confessed to Aziraphale that, when demons miracled sustenance for themselves, it was more like a way of sapping sin from the environment around them. Not only would that be difficult for Crowley given that the only person he really spent time around was the angel, but it would also make him feel much worse about himself. Miracling their corporation to be nourished, for demons, tasted and felt like death and ash and pain, and Crowley couldn’t bear to feel the magic of hell coursing through him and fueling his body.
Aziraphale had understood that the miracle option would only have made Crowley feel worse about himself and more connected to the very part of him he hated so deeply. However, the angel had insisted, it was important that Crowley begin (slowly) to nourish himself somehow, and that only left the option of human food. Aziraphale had secretly been partial to that option, anyway, since he hoped that one day dining could be an experience that Crowley might actually enjoy with him. Crowley wasn’t so sure that would ever be the case, it seemed almost impossible to imagine ever feeling at ease with food enough to actually enjoy it, but he had felt a momentary surge of optimism fueled by the angel’s support.
Angel food cake had seemed an easy enough choice to start, light and pleasantly sweet, but without any overpowering flavor that might’ve been too scary to begin with. However, Crowley currently found himself in a standoff with the offending pastry. He’d been unable to muster up the courage to even pick up his fork during the entire time that he and the angel had been sat at their kitchen table. Aziraphale sat across the table, using every ounce of his own strength to will himself not to cry while he watched Crowley visibly fight a battle with himself, one that the demon was appearing to lose. It devastated Aziraphale to see Crowley, the love of his life, this incredible being who’d helped avert an apocalypse, reduced to terror by a very small piece of cake that he hadn’t even taken a bite of yet.
Neither of them had spoken since Aziraphale had placed the cake in front of Crowley precisely 73 minutes prior. Finally, Aziraphale broke the thick silence, “I can see how difficult this is for you, dearest, but you really need to try. I am happy to sit here with you for as long as you need, Crowley, and it’s okay to struggle and to take your time. But, is there something I can do to help make this easier for you? Can I help you fight the thoughts in your head, dear?”
For the first time since Aziraphale had set the cake down, Crowley broke eye contact with the pastry and gave him a look so helpless and so broken that it physically pained the angel to witness.
“I can’t... please, Aziraphale. I’m sorry, I’m so, so sorry. Can we please just forget any of this ever happened? Please, angel? I’m fine. I promise I’ll be fine, angel. Please. I’m too scared. I can’t. I can’t do this, angel... please don’t make me do this, Aziraphale, please.” Crowley had become frantic by the time he’d finished speaking, practically begging.
“Oh my dear, it is breaking my heart to watch you struggle like this, but I can’t forget it and I can’t let you pretend you don’t need help. I promised you I would help you, Crowley, and I will. You CAN do this, and you NEED to do this. I won’t rush you Crowley, we can sit here as long as you need. But I need you to try and eat some of that. At least a few bites, my love. You can do this.” Aziraphale’s tone was compassionate, but unwavering.
Crowley was now visibly overwhelmed, his voice weak and just above a whisper, “Angel, please. You don’t understand, I just can’t... I can’t. I’m trying, I’m trying so hard, really, you have no idea. But I can’t do it, I can’t eat. Not now, not yet. I just... please, please, I’m so sorry angel.”
“I know it’s hard, Crowley, dear. Can you tell me what’s going on in your head? Tell me what you’re struggling with, my dear, why don’t you think you can do this?”
“Angel, I’m scared. I’m scared of what it’ll do to me. I’m... I’m not thin enough yet. I feel like I haven’t really earned the right to ‘recover’ because I don’t feel like I’m ‘sick’ enough yet.”
“You are sick enough, my dear. You can’t even see how sick you are, ironically, BECAUSE of how sick you are. Crowley, these are diseases of deception. But I know something in you recognizes that you can’t go on like this. You won’t survive if you keep existing this way. It’s not even living, it’s just existing at this point, and even then, just barely. You asked for my help, and I know somewhere deep inside you know you need it, even if it scares you. Crowley, you do deserve to recover. And you NEED to recover. Because if you don’t recover, dearest, you will die. Please, Crowley.”
Crowley was by this point so distraught he could only squeak out a response, “I... angel, it’ll make me fat. I can’t do it, angel, please don’t make me eat... I’m so scared. I don’t want to be fat.”
Under different circumstances, Aziraphale could’ve laughed morbidly at the sheer absurdity of that statement. Crowley looked downright skeletal sitting across the table, his jutting collarbones casting ghastly shadows on the hollows underneath them. Aziraphale focused hard on reminding himself that Crowley’s disorder caused the demon to see a distorted version of reality. The angel knew it was important to try and empathize with what Crowley was feeling and confiding in him, even though it was very far removed from what Aziraphale saw and knew was the actual truth. How malicious these disorders were, Aziraphale thought to himself, that they could have such a destructive ability to warp the mind of those who suffered from them.
Aziraphale got up from his position across the table and moved to sit down next to the demon. He placed a comforting hand on Crowley’s knobby knee, and gently said, “Crowley, no one is trying to make you fat. I promise, I am not trying to make you fat. You know you have an eating disorder, dear, you admitted that yourself. It makes you believe things that aren’t true and feel things that aren’t there. Your human form is medically underweight right now, Crowley. There is no realm of reality in which one tiny piece of cake can make you fat. That’s your disease lying to you. Even if you were a human, it would still take a long time and a LOT more than than one small piece of cake just to get you to a healthy weight. With our biology being what it is, Crowley, it could take hundreds, maybe thousands of years for your body to fully recover from the damage you’ve done. And you won’t be ‘fat’ then either, my dear, I just need you to work on getting healthy. Please, I can’t lose you, Crowley.”
“I know that... I think... I mean, it’s so complicated. Intellectually, I understand the science behind what you’re saying. I’m not stupid, I get how human bodies and calories work. I mean, if ANYONE gets how weight and calories work, it’s me... but I’m still so scared of it and I don’t know why. I feel like all the hard work I’ve done will be undone by taking one bite. Like I’ll just be a gross fat failure the second I put it in my mouth and chew and swallow and it’s making me sick just thinking about what that would look like or feel like... I can’t angel, I just can’t... please, Aziraphale, just please leave it alone.”
“I can’t leave it alone, Crowley. I know you are struggling, but I’m here and I will do everything in my power to help you, but you have to fight it too. You have to fight the thoughts in your head, Crowley. I need you here, with me. You said you wanted to spend forever together, my love, but we can’t do that if you’re not healthy enough to survive forever.”
“Urgh. I hate that word, too. Healthy. It makes my skin crawl. Why do ‘fat’ and ‘healthy’ feel like the same thing to me, angel?” Crowley shot back somewhat more harshly than he’d meant to.
Aziraphale understood Crowley was struggling and remained unfazed by the demon’s snappy tone, “Because you are sick, dear. Crowley, my love, that’s your disease making you feel that way. Having fat and being fat are two very different things, Crowley. These human bodies need some fat just to perform basic functions, they will shut down without it. That’s what yours is doing now, it’s shutting down because you don’t have enough of it just to stay alive. That’s why you passed out earlier. You will die without some fat on your body, Crowley. A certain amount of weight is necessary to keep your corporation functioning, at a bare minimum. That’s all I am trying to do, Crowley, is help you get to a place where you won’t die because your body can’t fuel its basic functions. Please, Crowley, please trust me. I can’t imagine how hard this must be for you, I can see it written all over your face, but I love you and I am trying to help you. And that voice in your head, the one that says ‘healthy’ means ‘fat’... Crowley, that voice is NOT trying to help you, it’s trying to kill you.”
Crowley subconsciously raised a hand to his collarbone and began to stroke along it, trying to calm himself down. Aziraphale saw this and sighed, he knew why the action calmed the demon so, and it made the angel feel ill to watch.
After a few solemn moments, Crowley gave the faintest nod of his head, then winced as he picked up the fork for the first time since they’d sat down. Aziraphale just waited with bated breath, praying that the demon would keep going. Crowley poked and prodded the cake a few times, pulling small chunks off of the slice and rearranging them on the plate. It was a peculiar practice, but Aziraphale remembered reading that eating disordered individuals sometimes developed these types of rituals surrounding food. After several minutes of seemingly just playing with the food in question, Crowley stabbed at the smallest piece he’d torn off the cake and raised it to his lips. The demon grimaced and welded his eyes shut as he shoved the bite of cake in his mouth.
No sooner had the cake hit his tongue than it was back on the plate, as Crowley spat it back out furiously. His pupils were fully blown out and snakelike, and he looked like a caged animal in his state of panic. In an act that shocked Aziraphale, and also himself, Crowley grabbed the plate, cake still on it, and threw it so hard it broke the window it crashed with. Crowley stood there, physically convulsing with nerves and adrenaline, desperately willing his horrified brain to process the events of the past 30 seconds.
Aziraphale looked just as bewildered and distressed. The angel had tried to prepare himself for several different scenarios when it came to trying to get Crowley to eat, and he’d known they wouldn’t all be easy or pleasant. He’d even considered the possibility that Crowley would spit the food back out (which he had). But he’d never seen Crowley be physically violent before, not really. He’d never seen the demon so completely unhinged and out of control. Aziraphale had seen it in Crowley’s eyes as his weak, bony body mustered strength it didn’t have and chucked the plate without a single thought except complete and utter disgust (at the cake? At himself? Aziraphale couldn’t quite tell) so hard it caused property damage.
Crowley stood, mouth gaping, sputtering, “I, er, angel. I didn’t. I didn’t mean. Er, oh fuck I’m... uh, sorry. I’m sorry. Oh God - oh Satan - someone fuck I'm so sorry. I don’t know why I just did that. I didn’t mean to do that. Angel, I... I’m sorry, angel, please don’t leave me. Please don’t leave me, I can’t lose you. I’m sorry, please angel I’m so sorry...” Crowley devolved into a mess of regret.
Aziraphale was, if he was being honest with himself, mildly frightened by what he’d just witnessed. He’d, of course, known Crowley was very ill. He’d known how deeply ingrained the voice of the disease in Crowley’s head must be. But, he’d somehow never realized that it had the power to make Crowley act in a manor so horrifyingly uncharacteristic. The angel had known Crowley for thousands of years, and yet, the person who just exploded violently over a single bite of food... that seemed like an entirely different, wholly terrifying person. Aziraphale knew, in that small moment, he’d witnessed the inner part of Crowley that was 0% Crowley, his love and best friend, and 100% Eating Disorder (Aziraphale had seen some people refer to it as “ED”, and it helped to give the ‘other’ persona that the disease inhabited a name, he supposed).
Aziraphale knew that the demon he loved dearly was sick, and that, if the angel wanted to help him he’d need to prove that he wouldn’t give up on Crowley, no matter what. Crowley was still sobbing, and Aziraphale placed his hands on the demon’s thin, shaking shoulders and gently guided him back down into his chair. Aziraphale pulled the demon in for a short, but meaningful hug before speaking.
“Crowley, dear, shhhh. It’s okay. It’s okay, dear. That wasn’t you. I know that wasn’t you. It’s okay, calm down,” Aziraphale soothed, and the demon slowly began to regain control over his outburst of apologetic sorrow. Aziraphale continued, “it’s okay Crowley. I’m so sorry this is so hard. I know you are trying and you’re fighting, and I know it probably feels like you’re losing the battle right now, but I promise you’re not. Just the fact that you’re trying, that’s a victory, that’s something. And I can see that you’re trying so hard dear. I’m here, Crowley, I’m here and I’m not going anywhere. I promise.”
“Oh angel, I don’t deserve you, angel. Thank you, angel. I’m so sorry, so, so sorry.” Crowley flooded with relief knowing that Aziraphale wasn’t planning to leave him after he’d seen how completely overtaken the demon could be by his disorder.
“Crowley, I’m not going anywhere, but I know you know,” Aziraphale snapped his fingers and the window was fixed, and the plate with cake intact had been returned to its position on the table, “that I still need you to actually eat some food, my darling. I’m not upset with you, I love you very much, and I can see that this is such a struggle for you. But I am not going to let you not eat something, Crowley. Just a little bit. You need to, my love, and I’ll stay here and support you until you do. Can I try asking you something a little different, dear?”
Crowley looked pleadingly at Aziraphale, then glumly at the cake, then back at Aziraphale giving a resigned nod for the angel to continue.
“I know when I asked you what you were thinking and feeling before you said that you were scared, dear, that you thought the cake would make you fat, yes?”
Crowley recoiled and shuddered, obviously disturbed by hearing the angel parrot back his own thoughts. Crowley again nodded in confirmation.
“Okay, I’m going to ask you again what you are thinking and feeling, dearest, but this time I don’t want you to talk about the food, or about your body, or about the relation of that food to your weight. I want you to try and describe what you’re feeling, tell me WHY the food is scary, beyond what it means for you physically. I don’t want you to use the ‘fat’ word. Tell me the feelings you’re struggling with underneath that.”
Crowley was pensive for a moment, then admitted, “I just... I feel like I’m bad. I feel like I’m a failure, and like I’m a reject. I feel like I’m so grossly flawed, not just physically but in my soul. Like my heart, my spirit, is dirty and dark and disgusting. And... I don’t know... when I look at that cake, or any food, really, and I think about eating it... I find it revolting. Not because the food is revolting, the food is nice. It’s because I’M revolting. I’m disgusting and I hate myself. I wish I didn’t, but I do, Aziraphale. And food, it’s nice, it’s beautiful, it’s delicious and indulgent. It’s everything that I don’t deserve, and so it disgusts me and terrifies me to even think about it, let alone try to eat it.”
Aziraphale was immensely grateful that his new tactic had made Crowley open up more. He knew that eating disorders were about underlying feelings masquerading as surface issues about weight. Crowley had been so focused on what the ED wanted him to focus on earlier, the lies about weight and his body. But, Aziraphale was hoping that if he could get Crowley to focus on the deeper issues and work through some of those, then maybe a second attempt at getting him to try the cake may be more successful.
“That’s good, my dear. I mean, it’s not ‘good’, of course, but it’s good that you can recognize how you are feeling and share that with me. This is important, Crowley. I know it feels like you are just scared of the food and weight issues, but the real fear is your feelings like these. The disease likes to keep you distracted by having you think it’s about weight and being ‘fat’ or ‘skinny’, because that’s a self-preservation technique for the eating disordered part of your brain. In reality, the root of the problem much deeper than that, and the disordered part of your brain knows that if you are able to combat and conquer those underlying issues, it won’t have control over you anymore. That’s what I want to help you stay focused on, Crowley, the underlying issues of self-worth and trauma that are really why you struggle.”
Crowley looked Aziraphale in the eyes for the first time since the plate throwing incident, and was met by a warm, loving, kind look like on the angel’s face.
Aziraphale continued, “Crowley, I love you very much. You need to know that you do deserve love, you do deserve happiness, you do deserve good things and that includes pleasures like food. Crowley, Heaven’s judgement on worthiness has to be one of the most dubious I’ve ever seen. They hold someone like Gabriel in esteem, but cast you out? I can’t abide, nor can I account for, that level of injustice. And I am so sorry, my dear, because I know that still haunts and hurts you. But you are so worthy, Crowley. You’ve proven many times that you’re more ‘worthy’, whatever that even really means, than even I am. You are not a failure, Crowley, you pulled off one of the biggest successes of anything, ever. You averted an actual apocalypse, for someone’s sake. How many people can say that? Could a failure, I mean a real, true failure, say that? No, Crowley, the answer is just simply no. You are so good, my love, and yet you live with intense pain and deep guilt that you haven’t done anything to deserve. And I am so sorry for that, I wish with all my heart I could take that away from you, dearest. You deserve so much more.”
After a few very quiet moments, Crowley emotionally breathed, “I don’t know what I’d do without you, angel. My angel. Thank you.. you’re the only thing in this world that has ever convinced me, even in fleeting moments, that there’s anything worth saving in me. And you’re the only one who has ever tried to. Thank you for believing in me more than I believe in myself, I need that more than you can know. And I love you so much, my angel. I’m so sorry I’m so difficult right now, but I’m trying, I promise.”
“I know, my dear, I know you are. That’s all I can ask. You deserve to get better, you deserve recovery, and you deserve life and to live it abundantly. And when you lose sight of that, I promise to remind you. I will always be here for you, Crowley. I’m on our side, with you, always.”
Crowley gave a small, heartfelt smile, then picked up the fork again. He timidly broke a tiny piece off of it and brought it to his quivering lips. This time, he looked directly into Aziraphale’s hope-filled eyes, and braced himself as he put the light, fluffy morsel into his mouth once more. He felt the sweetness hit his tongue, the sensation that had sent him into a panic previously. This time, however, the angel’s words calmed him as he tried hard to repeat them in his mind. He was worthy, he was loved, he was deserving. Crowley attempted to repeat it like a mantra in his head. He couldn’t tell it to himself in his own voice, yet, otherwise he wouldn’t believe it. So, instead, he played Aziraphale’s words back to himself in the angel’s tone. And, he did something he’d previously thought himself incapable of doing. Something much different from what he’d done on this evening’s previous attempt. This time, Crowley chewed, methodically, and many times, but eventually swallowed the bite, then looked to Aziraphale for approval. Aziraphale positively beamed in response, Crowley couldn’t remember the last time he’d made the angel so happy, perhaps it was the time he’d miracled that paintball off of his coat. It felt incredible, seeing how absolutely relieved and delighted the angel was at Crowley’s tiny victory. Perhaps, Crowley thought to himself, with the angel’s help, small victories would be possible more often than he’d thought.
Chapter 13: Chapter 13
Sorry it has been a few days, broke up with my boyfriend of 4 years which was necessary and a long time coming, but still tough, so have just been a little distracted by that.
Anyway, on to notes:
- this chapter was important to me since it’s actually something I’ve struggled with in the past few days personally. And I’ve struggled with it before with my family when I was younger, too. It starts off with hurt and struggle but ends up with comfort, don’t worry! As always Aziraphale is angelic and wonderful in every sense because I love him that way.
- basically, it addresses the motivation behind recovery and whether it’s internal or external, and whether it matters, and at what stage it begins to matter. And the guilt associated with someone being SO good and supportive that you feel like recovery should be easy, but as we all know it’s not. At all. No matter how much love you are on the receiving end of.
- I often found (and am finding now with my breakup), that even when I’ve been able to be “in recovery” for periods of time, it has often been for a reason other than wanting to do it for myself, out of self love and acceptance. More often, I’ve gone through the motions either to appease someone else, or for financially motivated reasons (the later of which I don’t bother addressing in this story because it doesn’t fit with these characters or this plot line at all).
- but, the former actually fits pretty well for these characters in my head, so it was something I wanted to explore. Crowley’s “love language“ seems to be acts of service, and I would kinda equate that with being a “people pleaser” (which is something I definitely am).
- so, like at several points in my life I would “recover” because someone else wanted me to and was SO supportive and I just like, felt guilted into it and like I didn’t want to let them down. And I kinda get the vibe that Crowley could feel the same way in this story, like Aziraphale is being SO good to him and he can’t really bring himself to do anything besides try to get well, even though it makes him kinda miserable inside because he doesn’t know if HE is ready yet. And that makes him feel badly because he feels like he’s failing at recovery then, even though he’s doing everything right it still doesn’t feel satisfying or good enough.
- I have no idea whether that makes sense to anyone else, but it was definitely something I struggled with once with my dad when he died, and then with my (now) ex.
- for the record, and this is what I try to have Aziraphale communicate to Crowley when he expresses worry about it, I think the most important thing is that you DO get healthy. Regardless of why. In a perfect world, it’s for yourself. But please don’t beat yourself up if you need to lean on other people or take motivation from external sources. It’s every bit as valid and the same victory if it gets you through the day without using behaviors. Use anything and everything at your disposal to get healthy, please, even if it is a case of ‘fake it until you make it’. That’s totally okay, that’s wonderful.
- the small risk, of course, and why eventually shifting that paradigm is important is because, if something should ever happen to the person you are ‘faking it’ for, then you risk going back to old behaviors... so definitely, please, try to address the really deep psychological issues behind it while you are recovering so that eventually you want to do it for yourself, as well. That’s been hard for me a few times, once when my dad died, and then again now with the end of this long term relationship.
- I may have Aziraphale and Crowley try to work on making that shift in perception in later chapters, but I really wanted one that was reassuring to express that, initially, it doesn’t matter WHY you choose to recover, it just matters that you DO. That’s enough, and that should be celebrated and validated. (Plus, it’s probably not as relevant the motivations with them since there’s really no risk of Crowley “losing” Aziraphale the ways a human would, so that makes it easier to just focus on the positives and opportunities for comfort between them, which I quite enjoy).
Crowley stood naked in front of the full length mirror, scrutinizing his reflection mercilessly. It had been a few days of Aziraphale coaxing Crowley into eating small bites of things here and there. Nowhere near enough to make a difference in his weight, especially not with their supernatural biology, but it still terrified Crowley deeply.
The demon was going through the motions for Aziraphale’s benefit, really. He still wasn’t convinced that he wanted to “get better”, as Aziraphale put it. In Crowley’s mind he still felt ‘better’ would’ve meant thinner, not staying the same. And most definitely, certainly NOT putting on weight, should it eventually come to that. And he knew Aziraphale wanted it to come to that. And he hated that idea.
Sure, Crowley believed now that the angel was telling the truth. His angel would be happier if Crowley was healthier. The angel would probably truly even find him more attractive that way. Aziraphale had done everything right and everything he could to convince Crowley of these facts. And he’d been successful, Crowley knew without doubt that Aziraphale would be far happier if the demon took better care of himself and worked to get healthy.
Crowley wanted so badly to make his angel happy, Aziraphale had been so loving and supportive of him. But Crowley just didn’t want recovery for himself, at least not yet. In a small, dark, sick corner of Crowley’s brain, he still felt he’d rather just discorporate himself and get it over with than gain weight. And he felt so conflicted because he WISHED, oh how he wished, that just his love for Aziraphale could make him want recovery. That should be enough, shouldn’t it? So why wasn’t it? He felt like his insides were all twisted up with guilt.
Crowley was appeasing the angel for now, but internally he was struggling constantly, fighting a silent war against himself. Crowley WANTED an eternity with Aziraphale, of course he did. He WANTED to make Aziraphale happy, and to relieve the stress and fear his disease caused the angel. Problem was, Crowley also WANTED control over his own corporation. Crowley WANTED the chance to decide for himself how to handle his health and, frankly, he DIDN’T really want to change a thing about how he’d been living up until now.
His disease brought him comfort, it was how he judged himself. He was afraid of having to assess his own value in its absence, he was afraid of having to face himself without it. It’d be too awful to contemplate judging himself on practically any other criteria, but weight was an easy one to master. Weight was a very straightforward measure of how worthy Crowley deemed himself, the numbers on the scale clearly indicated whether he was a success or failure. And a part of him, despite loving Aziraphale dearly, wasn’t ready to give that up.
Could he give that up FOR Aziraphale? Could he do it, long term, in spite of himself? Crowley didn’t know. Crowley did know that forever seemed like a very long time to have to live with being entirely uncomfortable with and disgusted by himself, however. He feared his warped self-perception might never change, even if his behavior and health eventually did. Crowley knew that the way he perceived himself was skewed, he could even admit that now, but it didn’t change the fact that the perception was there. Even if he knew what he saw and felt was wrong, it didn’t mean he didn’t still see and feel it. Fat.
Crowley eyed himself critically up and down, sneered, turned to the side and then back to the front again. Despite having checked his weight again several times that morning, and being reassured by the fact that it had stayed the same, he still FELT like he could see every dreadful piece of food Aziraphale had forced upon him over the past few days clinging to his form. He traced the ribs, still protruding violently as ever, but in his head he imagined that they didn’t seem as sharp, or as satisfying as before. His long fingers skimmed his jutting clavicle, but the ritual was less calming than ever before. Crowley intellectually knew that if his weight hadn’t changed, neither logically had his body, but the paranoia that eating at all induced was enough to drive him mad.
He felt weak and pathetic, but he was confused as to what exactly was making him feel weak and pathetic. On the one hand, he felt weak for having eaten at all. The part of Crowley’s brain that housed the disorder, the ‘ED’ as Aziraphale had called it, was screaming at him that he was a miserable failure, that he was worthless for giving in and eating food he didn’t deserve. It said he was loathsome and fat and that he’d never be anything else, certainly not if he kept eating.
On the other hand, and this part was surprising to Crowley, he also felt weak and pathetic for not fully wanting to get better. For continuing to have ED thoughts, despite how wonderful and compassionate Aziraphale had been to him. Despite how desperately the angel had tried to show him how loved and beautiful he thought the demon was, the distorted thoughts in his head persisted. Crowley hated that he couldn’t just accept and internalize the angel’s reassurances, he felt that if he really loved Aziraphale he should be able to believe him. Crowley worried that he should be able to get better for, and because of his angel, but he fretted that he might be a miserable failure at recovery (just like everything else, he thought to himself). Crowley felt that if he had been truly good enough for the angel, he wouldn’t still be struggling. There wouldn’t be a struggle because the choice would be so obvious, this should be easy. Crowley wondered dejectedly if his continued internal battle with his disease just stood to prove how unworthy he really was of such a perfect, patient, caring being as Aziraphale.
Meanwhile, Aziraphale had returned from the store early and had quietly, undetected, watched as Crowley appeared lost in (unpleasant) thought while looking disgustedly at himself. Aziraphale’s eyes welled up at the scene, but he knew he’d been hovering over Crowley these past few days and he wanted to give Crowley some space and (perceived) privacy with his thoughts.
Aziraphale physically shuddered seeing Crowley fully naked, and without him knowing. It gave the angel time for real observation when interaction wasn’t a factor, and the sight was sickening. Of course, Aziraphale knew how thin Crowley was... it was all the angel could think about most days as he concerned himself over the demon’s health. But it was easy to have hope, easy to push that to the side and ignore it when a fully clothed Crowley had tried to accept even small amounts of food recently. Aziraphale had tried to block out the fact that, despite whatever tiny strides were being made, Crowley’s brain and body were still suffering greatly. The angel knew it would take a very, very long time for Crowley to get himself healthy, or even to look any different at all, but it was jarring and harrowing to have to see the deprivation and self hatred on display in all of its emaciated glory.
And then there was Crowley’s face. Possibly the only thing Aziraphale could imagine worse than Crowley’s body was the look on his face. Hollow both in appearance and expression, like he was completely devoid of all hope or happiness. He watched Crowley’s jaw tighten with anxiety as an obviously particularly painful thought crossed the demon’s mind. He watched Crowley’s eyes skim his own body with a fiery disgust. Aziraphale saw Crowley revert to his usual rituals, the feeling and counting of bones, and the angel watched Crowley’s face just get more fraught looking.
Aziraphale’s heart sat firmly in the pit of his stomach, because he could see how loathsome Crowley found himself. Even after everything Aziraphale had said, even after how had he’d tried to show Crowley he was loved, the demon was still clearly locked in a private, heated battle. It was one thing to be aware of Crowley’s feelings and struggles, and even to listen to him talk about them. But Aziraphale had never really pictured what it would look like to see the private moments when Crowley let himself express the utter revulsion he had pent up inside.
Aziraphale wanted to pull Crowley into the biggest, warmest, safest hug ever. The angel would do that many times over, for the rest of time, of course. But Aziraphale wanted desperately for that to be enough to fix this, for it to heal Crowley, and the angel knew it couldn’t. Aziraphale would never give up, and as long as he lived (which should, in theory, be forever) he vowed silently to love Crowley, and do anything in his power to help Crowley.
The problem was, Crowley needed to want help, too. Aziraphale knew the demon was trying, very hard, to begin to recover. But Aziraphale worried that he was the demon’s sole motivation. Aziraphale wished he could make Crowley see and understand how much more beautiful he would be if he were healthier. He wished he could show Crowley how much happier they would be if the demon chose health and life over his disease. Aziraphale knew Crowley loved him more than anything in the world, certainly more than he loved himself, and more (thank goodness) than he even loved his illness. That’s the only reason Crowley was trying so hard to do better and to eat something here and there. It was for Aziraphale, always for Aziraphale. Aziraphale knew that most of what Crowley had done throughout his entire existence had been, in one way or another, for Aziraphale’s benefit. And while the angel was overcome by gratitude upon remembering that fact, it also made him sad to know that Crowley probably did very little solely for himself.
Obviously, Aziraphale would take what he could get at the moment. For now, Crowley was trying his best and eating at least a little nibble here and there. And even if Aziraphale knew that it was probably only to make the angel happy, steps toward recovery were still steps toward recovery, regardless of motivation. Right now, the most important thing to Aziraphale was making sure Crowley didn’t discorporate and die, because the angel feared he might discorporate himself as well if he lost the demon. Life on this planet wouldn’t be worth living, for Aziraphale, if Crowley were ever destroyed for good.
It was important to Aziraphale to eventually convince Crowley to get well for the right reasons, since the angel supposed that long term recovery required some kind of self-love and acceptance. And Crowley deserved those things anyway, regardless of whether they were tied to his health or not. He deserved to be happy, and it devastated Aziraphale that Crowley still had to put on a brave face for Aziraphale when he was hurting so much inside. A part of Aziraphale felt guilty because he worried Crowley hadn’t been ready for change, and perhaps the angel had (lovingly) forced it on him. But that guilt was absolutely overwhelmed by relief that, while Crowley was struggling more than Aziraphale had hoped he would, he was trying very hard and had been receptive to Aziraphale’s help.
“Penny for your thoughts, dear?” Aziraphale knocked on the doorframe he’d been standing in lightly and broke the silence, startling Crowley who’d had no idea the angel had been there.
“Somebody’s sake! You scared me, angel, don’t sneak up on me like that.” Crowley said in a gently teasing tone. Quickly, however, his face contorted to something like shame, and he miracled himself dressed. “How long have you been standing there?” Crowley ventured, now shifting himself from side to side and looking visibly uncomfortable.
“Not long, dear, I just arrived.” Aziraphale lied reassuringly. No sense in upsetting the demon further.
“Uh, good, yeah. I was just, um, it’s nothing. Thought you were out.” Crowley continued to fidget, clearly uncomfortable.
Aziraphale crossed the room and softly pulled Crowley into an embrace, the demon looked like he needed some comfort. But, to Aziraphale’s surprise he felt Crowley go completely rigid, rather than relax into him. Aziraphale pulled away but interlocked his hands with Crowley’s so they’d still be touching somehow.
“What’s wrong, dear? You’re obviously struggling, and I’m just trying to comfort you. Usually you like physical affection, but clearly that’s not helpful right now...”. Aziraphale left it not quite a question, but he was definitely expecting an answer nonetheless.
“It’s not you, angel. I’m sorry. I want to BE touched, I just don’t want you touching ME. Not right now. I know that makes no sense. Like, I crave the comfort, and the reassurance, and the love I get when you hug me. Sure. But I just can’t stand to think about you touching me when I’m so impure. When I know I have food in me. Everywhere I feel your hands just reminds me of all the places that fucking food might attach itself to and I just can’t focus on anything other than my gross, tainted flesh underneath your fingers.” Crowley responded defeatedly.
“Dear, you don’t look any different. You certainly aren’t eating enough to make any kind of physical change, I’m just trying to get you to slowly readjust. I still feel like I’m hugging a skeleton, but you’re a skeleton that I love and I want to hug you if you need that, despite it being unpleasant for me.” Aziraphale protested.
“It’s not about my body... kinda. I mean I feel self conscious like I’m fat and all, but I also know I look the same. It’s more psychological, it’s gotten worse since I started trying to eat. Before that I knew I was empty, which meant I was pure. I wasn’t perfect, yet, but I was getting there and I was empty and at least I could point to that and say, yes, for the moment I’m worthy of Aziraphale touching me. And I know it’s stupid because I don’t actually LOOK any different, but I FEEL different just knowing that food has been in my body. Knowing that I gave in, knowing that I failed. I know you’d consider me eating a success, not a failure, angel. But, I still can’t. It still feels like a flaw on my part, even if I can force myself to do it for you. I feel so impure and tainted, not so much like you can feel the food I’ve eaten when you hug me, but like you can feel all my sins because there’s food in me.”
“Oh... yes, okay, that makes sense dear. I know it’s been hard for you, Crowley. I know recovery isn’t something you’ve necessarily chosen for yourself. I’m grateful that what you HAVE chosen is me, and I promise that I choose you and I’ll choose you over and over for the rest of eternity.” Aziraphale’s thumbs stroked Crowley’s hands gently as he continued, “there’s a phrase in recovery that humans use, called ‘fake it until you make it’, and perhaps that’s a bit what you’re doing now. You’re going through the motions, and your motivation right now is me. That’s not ideal long term, but if it’s what gets you through the day and what gets you to take better care of yourself in the moment, then it’s just as valid as anything else.”
“I’m sorry, angel, I feel like I even suck at getting better. I’m trying so hard but I just hate doing it and I’m not sure if I want it. I definitely want YOU, but that’s so much pressure to put on you and that’s not fair of me, I know. I don’t want to fail at this, too. I’m so afraid I’ll just end up disappointing you. Like even my recovering won’t be good enough because I can’t do anything right.”
“Crowley, my love, you are doing everything exactly right. You’re trying, that’s all I can ask. I’m proud of you and if I can be your rock, if I can be the thing that forces you to ‘fake it’ motivation wise until you are ready to do this for you, then it’ll be the greatest honor of my life, dear.” Aziraphale said soothingly and earnestly.
“Thank you, angel. I love you, Aziraphale. I don’t know what I’d do without you, I really don’t. That’s what’s scary to me.”
“Then I’ll always be here for you, dear. That way you’ll never have to find out. I love you too, dearest.” Aziraphale kissed Crowley’s forehead lightly, and when he did the demon slowly snaked his arms around the angel, deciding to accept the hug he’d been unable to enjoy earlier.