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Everything, or the Truth

Chapter Text

The bus ride to “Oxford” is passing quietly, as monumental as it is. They’re sharing a bus row (for the first time since the invention of buses), thighs touching, passing a wine bottle back and forth. They need to plan-- for all that the world’s safe, they’re in rather mortal peril-- but Aziraphale is feeling shell-shocked, and Crowley looks worse. (At least Aziraphale’s clothes are fresh, substantiated by the Antichrist himself. Crowley’s, on the other hand, have passed through a terrifying quantity of flame since breakfast.)

The demon keeps staring out the window, toes tapping bebop. Aziraphale is watching him, discreetly as he can. Better that than dwelling on the bookshop burning, or that they’re on their own side now, or even that it actually took the world almost ending to get an invite back to Crowley’s flat! No, far better to just watch the street lights and headlights pass across Crowley’s hawkish face, when he can risk a glance.

The bus pulls up right to a swanky bit of Mayfair, and Aziraphale chats the driver through the brain fog of turning round and heading home. He miracles an extra hundred pound note in his pocket for his trouble, then steps off after Crowley, who is slinking up the front steps of a brutalist high rise.

The lobby is dreadful-- all glass and concrete. Crowley hits “12a” on the elevator, and they ascend to the penthouse in silence.

A little hand wave at the top, and the apartment door swings open. “Come into my parlour, said the spider to the fly,” he intones, a bit of Nanny Ashtoreth’s voice coming out, and he ushers his chuckling guest into the entry hall… only to mumble, “Well shite,” at the sight of a perpetually-sizzling puddle of overcoat on the floor.

“Is that..?”

“Ligur, or what’s left of him, and yes, my insurance policy. Thanks. If he and Hastur had both gotten through that door I wouldn’t be here now.”

One SNAP from Aziraphale, and the holy water is gone, demon-grit along with it. “I’m sorry for doubting you.”

“Oh, let’s not tread that ground again tonight, eh? We saved the world, just a bit. Ta-da! Why don’t I get you a drink?” Crowley pushes the door the rest of the way open, into what must be an office and the rest of the flat.

In fifty years of idle musing, the possibility that Crowley’s would be a concrete minimalist cave with an indoor greenhouse somehow hadn’t occurred. “Oh, these plants are lovely!”

“Hush you, you’ll spoil them,” he grumbles, sounding oddly resigned. “Come on, booze is this way.” Crowley leads Aziraphale through from the plants, past a rather homoerotic winged sculpture, and into a chrome-laden kitchen. He bangs through three or four cabinets, until imagination and luck and perhaps prior labor result in an amber bottle and a pair of tumblers.

“Scotch for you, and now I need to be soot free. Make yourself at-- huh-- at home.” It’s usually a light phrase, meant to be casual, but they both hear the reminder of the burnt bookshop at the same moment; they choose to ignore it together as well. “Back in a mo.”

Those hips saunter away, and Aziraphale lets himself watch. He’s got a plan (thank Go- Sa- Agnes), but if he’s wrong then he’d rather have one more chance to stare at that fiendish backside.

Might as well have a look around, he thinks, after a shot or two of courage, and lets his feet drift about the flat.

There’s a sitting room, on the other side of That Statue. (Is Crowley baiting him with that thing? Gracious!) He’s excited to see a bookshelf, until he realizes it’s only got records and discs. There’s a futon, well-abused, and more art about.

After that, Aziraphale saunters back past that statue (ahem), down the hall and through the greenhouse, which truly is beautiful in its sparse way, to that peculiar office on the other side. Just a massive desk and enormous gold throne, and not much else (besides what must be an original sketch of the Mona Lisa), with another hallway beyond…

Oh.
Oh dear.

Aziraphale knows that sculpture, at the end of the hall-- knows that the eagle was not originally an art piece. It’s the lectern from that church that was bombed in the Blitz, the night Crowley saved Aziraphale and his books from some double-crossing Nazis. He must have come back for it later, and then put it up in his home, to stare at from his office chair every day since? Oh dear.

Of course, Crowley pops back out now, freshly showered and clad only in black trousers. At any other moment in human history, almost without exception, the droplets of water still clinging to his skin would have Aziraphale ready to discorporate, but his eyes are rather stuck in the past right now.

“Hey, angel, I was just thinking we could…” Crowley glances up, sees Aziraphale staring at the art behind him. “Shit. I can explain.” Those lovely golden eyes are the size of dinner plates.

“My dear boy, you don’t need to. I’m just surprised, a bit.” That clearly wasn’t what Crowley was expecting. “I didn’t realize that that night had been important for you too.”

“It was important for you, then?” He’s blushing, the way he does when he wishes he had glasses on. On a mortal, that face would be coy, but after six thousand years they both read each other too well.

“Of course!” There’s no miracle involved, but time is frozen now, just as surely as it was at the air base. Aziraphale has to decide-- no, he gets to decide what happens next. He has a choice to make, about how he wants this conversation to go… and he’d rather clear the air. Buck up, Hamlet. “That night was when I realized you… I’d felt it before, of course, but they always said demons couldn’t,” and Crowley’s face is slowly setting into stone, so Aziraphale does what he always does, keeps yammering on. “I mean, plausible deniability and all that, usually feelings could be wafting in from anywhere, but there was hardly anyone else feeling loving around that night. No one else was left alive, was there? So.”

A crack forms in Crowley’s frozen face, and his jaw goes slack. He remembers to breathe, and then starts sputtering. “Eighty years, angel. Eighty! Why didn’t you say anything?”

“What could I have said?” His voice sounds so small to his own ears, it’s a wonder it reaches down the hall.

“Oh, I dunno, how about, ‘I love you too,’ maybe?” His hand keeps twitching to reach out, but his feet are glued to the cold floor. He knows something is wrong, Aziraphale realizes, just not what.

“I couldn’t, my dear boy. I’m so sorry.” The worst part is that Aziraphale knows the faces he should be making, the words he’s supposed to say. He knows how to give Crowley everything, or the truth, but it can’t be both.

“What, our sides? They don’t matter anymore, angel! At least, not for tonight?” His heart is breaking already, Aziraphale can hear it, but he’s still daring to hope.

“It’s not that-- not just that.”

“Then why?”

“Because I don’t love you!” Glass shatters, somewhere. (It might just be them.)

“Well that’s just tickety boo then.” SNAP, and Crowley is fully dressed, glasses/armor in place. “My heart bloody on a platter, and you homeless, and both of us likely facing execution in the morning! Lovely time for a confession. Couldn’t you have told me during the war, or kept your blessed mouth shut?”

“I know how it sounds, dearest. Wait, please.”

“Dearest?” The word bites, it mocks, it animates the air between them. “That’s cruel, even for you.”

“I deserve that,” he says tightly. “Please, can I explain?”

“Maybe to the plants. SomeBody knows, they’ve heard me pining for you often enough. I’m sure they’re curious to hear how the story ends. Me, though? I think I am going to drink until I don’t feel it when they come and pour holy water on my head.” He strides past, ducking around the desk.

“I can save us, tomorrow.” The promise vomits out of him. “I don’t think it’ll work if you hate me, though, so I need you to let me fix this.”

Crowley stops at that, turns back. “How much of a sadist are you?”

It’s meant to be a barb, Aziraphale knows, but it’s also an opening. “I don’t know, honestly. I barely know myself. As you’re well aware, Up There doesn’t encourage self-discovery. I’m just starting to figure myself out, and you, and us, because ‘ineffable’ isn’t fucking good enough.”

The expletive was a cheap tactic, but it’s worked. Crowley is actually listening now.

Aziraphale takes the tiniest step toward the desk, toward him. “Can you imagine something, for me? I don’t know how else to explain it-- I’ve never tried, not out loud, but…” No reply, but he’s not expecting one yet. He lets himself look at the eagle lectern, steadies his mind, and wills the words to come. (He doesn’t dare pray, not for this.)

“Imagine being a tadpole. You were born swimming. You breathe through water, you eat and drink through water, you move through water. You have no idea there’s a world outside the wet-- what it could look like, how it could feel. It’s beyond your ken-- until you find yourself transformed, launching into air and sunlight.”

Aziraphale lets himself fidget, lets his hands worry at his sleeves. “I am love, Crowley-- for God and for Her Host, for Lucifer and His Fallen, and for humans and their trifling wonders. I walk love, I speak love, I breathe love, I hardly notice myself feeling it anymore. Love is universal-- it’s background noise, it’s an assignment from the head office. Love is just work.”

“But you, dear boy?” He risks a glance, and feels Crowley’s predatory stare even through the glasses. “For you, I leap from the water, feel the sunshine on my face. This is something else, something grand and unique and unknown. This, I only feel for you.” He sidesteps the throne, inches closer.

“I crave you, you wily serpent! I desire you, I need you, I ache for you. I always have, since Eden. Your lovely hair, your lovelier questions.” Crowley’s hand flies to his mouth, trapping some sound inside.

“I thought this was just another of my failings, that I was succumbing to lust and doubt, that I was Falling… But I’ve spent this last decade daring myself to believe in you, inch by inch. I’m starting to believe in us, in our side. I’m sorry it took me so long to catch up, but I’m here now, I swear it.”

It’s just the desk between them now, and Aziraphale lets his palms rest on it, lets himself lean forward. “I choose you, Crowley. Not out of some obligatory feeling or divine mandate, but because you are right for me and I want you. You were the first choice I ever made, and you’ll be the last, darling. I choose you! I choose us.”

Crowley’s face is wet beneath the glasses. “Oh, angel.”

“Come here, darling. Please let me hold you.”

The obvious, human thing would be for Crowley to walk around the desk, but instead he tumbles over it like the pile of vertebrae he is and lobs his face right into Aziraphale’s chest. They cling to each other, they weep. Aziraphale eases them back onto the throne, and they crumple together.

“I’m so sorry, dear one, I am. I was so afraid to tell you, can you ever forgive me?”

“Always, angel. Always.”

Something like an hour later, their feelings even out enough that they can find their own limbs, their own faces, and begin to unwind from each other.

“I seem to recall you mentioning that you have a plan?”

“Oh, yes. Of course. Not so much mine as Agnes’s, but I think it’ll just do...”

Chapter Text

It’s not even twenty-four hours later, but they’ve swapped bodies twice, and fooled both head offices in between. Now they’re dining at the Ritz, truly free and clear for the first time in their immortal lives, and Aziraphale still finds himself worrying by the time the dessert course has arrived.

This is utterly senseless, he knows. He’s openly defied Heaven, faced down Lucifer himself, and even visited Hell. He and Crowley talked! About their feelings-- those feelings! That’s his whole bucket list of anxieties, all felled in twenty-four frenetic hours. What even is left to fear?

“Don’t fret, angel, not till after cake.” Of course Crowley can tell.

“Force of habit, dear boy,” he says at last. “I think things are catching up with me.”

That gets a sage nod, and they both seem content to let that thought drift away. Aziraphale takes another bite (the mousse is exquisite, as always) and buries his nerves one bite at a time.

“That was lovely food, and better company,” he says at last, dabbing his face with the napkin. “Would you care to come back to my shop?”

Crowley makes a show of pondering the request. “Might as well,” he concedes at last, and waves down their waiter to pay the check.

The Bentley is still in Mayfair-- far better there and whole than a smoking mound of steel in Tadfield-- so they walk out of the Ritz and into the twilight. Birds are singing, the air smells of summer. Is this really such a perfect night, or does it just feel like one because it almost never happened?

Crowley turns back to look at him, a hint of a smile playing across his face, and Aziraphale realizes he must have stopped walking to soak up the evening. He takes a deep breath, unnecessary but oh so good, and then strides forward. One, two, three steps, and they’re close enough. Aziraphale holds out his hand, and Crowley takes it, and he can feel the joy spilling off of them both. The notes are different, but it’s harmonious. This might work, they might work.

They saunter up Piccadilly, through Chinatown, and into Aziraphale’s corner of Soho, fingers entwined. They aren’t even talking, for once, just floating on their feet together.

At last, they reach the bookshop, and now it’s Crowley who pauses. Aziraphale can feel the mood shift, in the air and through their hands. “What is it, my dear?”

“This place was burning, yesterday.”

“Yes, I know.”

“No, angel. It was on fire and you were Gone. I couldn’t feel you anywhere, and I thought…”

A dozen disparate threads finally weave together, and Aziraphale can see that bit of tapestry at last. “Oh? You mean… Oh no!”

“You’d never let the shop go, not without a fight, but your body was gone-- I could feel that you were Gone too.” His voice picks up speed as he spits out the words, free hand waving about, a horrorshow of excess emotion spilling over. “What else could have happened?”

“Shadwell, evidently,” Aziraphale admits.

Whatever Crowley had imagined, it clearly wasn’t that. “What?!”

“I’d rather tell you over a bottle of red, if that’s all right?”

It’s clear this is worse for Crowley than he’d realized, being back here, but he nods and growls his way back into a normal voice, “Oh yeah, all fine. Let’s.”

Aziraphale just replies with a squeeze, and SNAPS the door unlocked and the lights on. (It wouldn’t do to let go of his hand to fumble with the key.)

Every book is just as he left it, every dust mote in place. The tomes are all humming along, chatting as raucously as always. He ought to feel something that his shop was lost and returned, but sight unseen it’s all rather abstract.

There’s a single difference between the old reality and the new, to confirm that anything happened at all: a complete set of Just William books now sits atop his desk, which seems a rather omniscient reflection of Adam’s sensibilities. (The displaced folios of receipts have been shuffled into a newly arrived oak filing cabinet, he realizes with a sniff and blink-- and organized moderately sensibly, from the smell of them. Something to fuss over later, he supposes.)

He has to let go of Crowley’s hand to rustle up a few bottles of Carménère in the back room. He turns back to the office at last, wine in hand, to find his demon still standing, staring about and looking lost. On a normal evening, Crowley would already be sprawled across the couch, and Aziraphale would settle into his armchair, but tonight is far different from any night prior-- they’ve changed, even if the bookshop hasn’t really.

Aziraphale deposits the wine on the little table, and then takes an extra couple steps. He settles himself onto the couch. The leather creaks softly beneath the throw blanket, unused to anyone of substance sitting on the eastern seat.

Crowley almost looks more bewildered, somehow, at the sight of Aziraphale’s change of the seating arrangement. “Something wrong with your chair?”

“Well, we are on our own side now,” Aziraphale replies, trying for levity and nearly achieving it. He pats the space beside him, half expecting the skittish demon to try the armchair out of spite… but Crowley does it, he lopes over and flops onto the free half of the couch.

Aziraphale pours out two glasses, and begins his promised tale: his conversation with the Metatron, Shadwell’s interruption and the discorporation, and his subsequent heavenly dereliction of duty. It’s becoming a touch more theatrical with each implausibility surmounted, each gulp of wine, each step closer to their impossible present. By the time he’s describing the start of his cohabitation with Madame Tracy, they’re on their second bottle, and Aziraphale discovers his hand has found its way to Crowley’s knee. The tale falls away, words forgotten.

During any prior encounter, he’d have to not only withdraw over such a development, but act guilty as well… but tonight? Tonight he can smile and squeeze that bony denim-clad leg. He can reach up to pat his demon on the cheek. He can slowly pull off those damned sunglasses and see the serpentine eyes hiding behind them.

He can, and he does, and those golden eyes are blown wide. “You’re drunk,” Crowley whispers.

“Indub-b-bita-- yup.” One finger reaches out, the way he’s wanted to for six thousand years, to touch the mark of the serpent on the side of Crowley’s face. It feels like a brand, smooth and slightly raised under his fingertip, and a breath hisses out of Crowley’s mouth. “I’m drunk, and you are beautiful.”

He’s been waiting for six thousand years to touch that lip too. Now he doesn’t have to hold back any more-- but Crowley twitches away regardless. “Nope! No nopity nope. Sober up, angel.”

“As you wish,” Aziraphale sighs, and shudders through the alcohol fleeing his body. When he’s no longer permeable, he looks up and the sunglasses are back on Crowley’s face, even as he’s squinching up his mouth at the taste of aborted wine. “I appreciate you protecting my virtue, dear, truly I do, but I can assure you that I fully consent to the proceedings.”

That earns him a glare he can read right through the tinted shades, but not a direct reply. “The Princess Bride seems a bit contemporary for your tastes.”

“Professional interest, of course. The original book is delightful-- a bit darker than the film adaptation, or so I’m told… That line is one of the best bits.”

“Thought you said this isn’t love,” he sneers, the way he does when he’s afraid.

“It’s not, but there’s hardly any stories about how I feel for you.” Aziraphale tries again, scoots a little closer and slowly reaches one hand out toward the sunglasses. Crowley lets him pull them off again, and he sets them on the table. “There now. Your eyes are lovely, by the way. I know that’s a complicated subject for you, obviously,” the whole Falling business, “but I’ve always found them entrancing.”

Crowley snorts, is clearly shuffling through retorts in his head, but Aziraphale smiles and reaches back out and puts his thumb back to that bottom lip, and whatever self deprecation he’d been about to muster is forgotten. “Angel?”

“I’d very much like to kiss you now, dearest, if you’d be amenable.”

Crowley huffs, breath grazing that thumb. “I might discorporate if you don’t.”

Aziraphale smirks back, “We both might either way, after waiting this long.” He cups that chin, leans forward, and touches their lips together at long last. (He thinks he hears the trade paperbacks swooning in their corner, but he can hardly blame them.)

Crowley falls forward after, his hands reaching for shoulders and his forehead dipping onto Aziraphale’s. “You’ve been waiting?” he whispers into his mouth.

“Since Eden. I meant it last night, every word.”

Crowley leans back, just an inch or two, and stares at his eyes. Aziraphale lets him, hopes a fraction of what he’s feeling shows through. It must be enough, because the demon descends on him at last, pecking little kisses all over his face and then burying himself in his neck.

“Maybe next time we can do this without tears?” Aziraphale suggests, pressing his lips to a damp cheek.

“You’re a right bastard,” Crowley mutters into his neck.

“Indubitably.”

Chapter Text

Crowley doesn’t come back to the bookshop for three days.

Oh, he warned Aziraphale on his way out the door that night, “Gotta pop over the channel, angel. See you in a bit.” With the peace between them and their head offices as new as it is, it wouldn’t do for either of them to disappear unannounced, so he appreciates the courtesy, truly. It’s just not how he imagined things going right after this sort of personal revelation-- not that he’d let himself daydream much.

While he’s alone, he keeps company with Just William; he’d never read the books before, and he’s more taken with them than he had expected. Then he has plenty of work to do, sorting through Adam’s rather creative filing of his records.

After a few long days of distractions, the door chimes at dusk. Aziraphale leans back in his desk chair and sees Crowley sauntering in, silhouetted by street light. The origami creases of him make the breath catch in his throat.

He reaches the center of the shop in a few long strides. “Hey, angel,” he whispers, and offers up a single long-stemmed white rose.

“Oh dear, it’s lovely!” He makes a point of brushing his fingers along Crowley’s as he takes the rose, and even in the dim light he can see the snake blush. That might be the loveliest sight he’s ever seen in his long existence, he thinks to himself. Before he can second-guess it, he stands up and presses a kiss to Crowley’s flushed cheek. “I’ll just go find a vase.”

The bit of distance gives them both a moment to regain some composure. Aziraphale flips the sign (no customers to banish, thank Somebody), then rustles up a chintz vase, some pastoral scene adorning its belly. The rose makes it transcendent rather than schlocky, and he sets them up together on the end table with the least clutter.

Aziraphale returns to the couch, watching Crowley watch him approach. It doesn’t escape his notice that the demon has taken the inside seat on the couch, leaving enough space for an angel to join him. He takes the silent invitation gladly.

They stare at each other in silence, a foot apart and grinning like fools.

“Got you a present,” Crowley says at last, reaching into his jacket to pull out a book-shaped parcel.

Aziraphale makes a point of brushing Crowley’s hands with his own as he receives it, just to keep his blush on, and then carefully unties the string and unfolds the brown paper.

“Oh,” he whispers. It’s a limited first edition of poetry by ee cummings, the cover black with gold flecks like stars. “This is lovely, dear!”

“Saw it and thought of you, angel,” he says, like it was nothing, as though he hadn’t likely gone to the continent just to track this volume down.

“Thank you, truly,” Aziraphale replies. He sets the book down reverently on the coffee table, and then reaches for Crowley with equal care. Crowley freezes at the first kiss, perhaps in surprise, but then his hands are cradling Aziraphale’s face and he’s leaning into him and it’s like oysters and sunshine.

The sweetness is delicious, and Aziraphale is aching for more. Hunger growls inside of him, wanting sweat, moans, pink flesh. His hands grasp for the hip bones that have haunted him since the Roman baths, his tongue breaches in search of new flavors. Someone is gasping, which means at least one of them is probably still breathing, and that seems rather decadent.

Crowley falls away first, catches Aziraphale’s roaming hand and brings the knuckles to his lips. “Dinner?”

“You do look delicious,” Aziraphale admits, leaning back in.

Crowley huffs a laugh, looking caught between scandalized and impressed. “Angel! I meant sushi!”

“Oh all right, I could go for some nigiri.”

They traipse out the door, and Aziraphale offers Crowley his arm. He accepts with a little smirk, and they meander south together. It shouldn’t be noteworthy-- they’ve gone down this very street arm in arm just two centuries past-- but now? Now there’s no fear of being caught in proximity. Now the gesture isn’t merely friendly, not for the humans who pass by (though seeing two man-shaped beings arm in arm in Soho doesn’t merit a second glance). It’s not merely friendly for them either, of course. This is strolling with intent, and that is new even if their linked arms aren’t. The layers of it all are a bit dizzying, if one looks too closely. Aziraphale decides to watch Crowley instead.

He winds up opining on Adam’s filing of his records, such as it was, and his idle speculations on whether the idiosyncrasies were more the fault of his human nature or his infernal one. There’s a debate to be had on that point, and they banter a bit over sake and sashimi. They both wind up ceding most of the quirks to humanity and youth in the end; Lucifer himself would not be so malicious as to alphabetize receipts by the long form of their dates!

Meanwhile their knees knock under the table, and their fingers brush when Crowley hands him the soy sauce. Crowley feeds him the last piece of ebi with his own chopsticks, an indirect kiss. It’s all innocent enough to the other patrons, but Aziraphale still feels the heat beneath his collar.

Two dainty mochi later, they’re back in the night air, and Aziraphale is offering his arm again… and Crowley is accepting (like it’s nothing, as if this is what they always do), and they’re strolling back to the shop. They’re both tipsy now, and Crowley is nattering on about beavers and ducks, and all Aziraphale can do is stare at that lock of hair that falls across his forehead.

He invites him in, of course he does, and takes the inside spot on the couch… only to have Crowley tip himself over and land on his back, with his head on Aziraphale’s thigh. “Hey, angel,” he whispers, and drops his sunglasses on the coffee table next to the wine.

“You foul tempter,” Aziraphale replies fondly, and cards his fingers through the red hair, the way he’s been wanting to do for millenia now. Apparently he’s not alone in that, if Crowley’s blissful little sigh is any indication. “What a delight you are.” Every moment feels like a revelation-- they can do this now too, no more waiting for the guillotine to drop. “I only hope you’re not sick of me yet by the time you decide to grow your hair out again.”

“Getting bored already?” he teases.

“Hardly! This is lovely, you’re lovely. It’s just, when I dream of doing this, it’s through your Eden curls.”

Crowley laughs, and arches up to kiss him. Aziraphale drowns in his lips, until the tide of Crowley recedes back into his lap… with long flowing locks falling in waves around him.

Now Aziraphale is the one sighing. Now he’s the one tearing up.

He strokes, he pets, he combs his fingers through crimson locks. Crowley’s eyes drift shut and his breathing evens out gradually, as he’s lured into sleep. By then Aziraphale has forgotten how to breathe. He didn’t know-- he didn’t know that it would be like this. That his feeling without a name would be a tiger circling and finally curling up in his chest, rumbling a purr of contentment. He didn’t know.

It’s still not love, he's sure. It’s not like the divinity that pulses through him instead of blood, the background hum of holy, holy, holy that echoes from somewhere over his head, not even the ringing bell of joy that reverberates through each goodness that humans have wrought. This is something lower, something with fur and teeth, something that doesn’t stretch beyond his skin-- except to reach for Crowley. This is a crawling, hungry feeling, sated now at such a simple touch. He’d fear it, had done for so long, but if he is “fearfully and wonderfully made” than that must include the beast inside him too.

Leaving his left hand there, tangled up exactly where it wants to be, he picks up Crowley’s gift with his right and begins to read.

since feeling is first
who pays any attention
to the syntax of things
will never wholly kiss you;
wholly to be a fool
while Spring is in the world
my blood approves,
and kisses are a better fate
than wisdom
lady i swear by all flowers. Don’t cry
– the best gesture of my brain is less than
your eyelids’ flutter which says
we are for each other; then
laugh, leaning back in my arms
for life’s not a paragraph
And death i think is no parenthesis

Aziraphale is rereading the cummings (poetry about the futility of war feels rather prescient; it’s a thoughtful gift a few times over) when the sun finally rises high enough to stream in through the skylight and dance across his lap and Crowley’s face. That stirs him at last, and Aziraphale finds himself wanting to reset the sky. He’s terrible about change, he knows, no matter how desirable the future he’s facing.

He manages not to miracle away the sun, and so Crowley stretches gradually into consciousness. Aziraphale hasn’t gotten to watch him awaken nearly often enough-- crinkly and growling and vulnerable. His whole body tenses for a moment when he realizes where he had laid his head, only to soften down again when recent memories catch up. (Aziraphale is thinking it all too… Yes, this is sober. Yes, it’s consensual. No, They probably aren’t watching, not anymore.) “Mornin’, angel,” he rumbles.

“Good morning, gorgeous,” Aziraphale replies, setting the book down on the coffee table and going back to petting his hair in earnest. Crowley’s eyes drift shut again at the brush of fingertips against his scalp. “If you’re still sleepy, we could retire upstairs?” Goodness! He didn’t mean to suggest that, not out loud.

He can feel Crowley shudder at the invitation, but his voice stays casual, “Nah. I’m up now. Coffee?” He pulls himself upright, out of his angel’s lap, and begins braiding his two feet of new hair with well-practiced grace. (He’s going to keep it long, Aziraphale realizes with a start, maybe just to make him happy. The thought is intoxicating.)

The ritual of arguing over which shop to patronize is at least as soothing as actually getting caffeine in their systems, half an hour later.