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the adoration of the fallen

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“None of them really had it right, did they?” Crowley says with a hiccup.

He gestures wide, wine threatening to slip out of his glass. Luckily, the liquid is too frightened of the consequences to oblige by the laws of physics, and stays well within the rim.

“Careful, dear,” Aziraphale warns, eyeing the arch of Crowley’s gesture, the deep red of the merlot and the crisp whiteness of his linen settee.

“Yeah, yeah,” Crowley says, unhearing. Unlistening. “El Greco, though. He was close. He got the general vibe. Maybe not the overarching shape or form, but he got the nuance of it. The offputting fear, the unrelenting strength.”

He sounds so very sad.

“Oh,” Aziraphale says, suddenly understanding. He moves to stand up from his armchair and sits himself down next to his companion. It's been a long time since Crowley allowed himself to grow so maudlin over this particular thorn of his, but whenever he does, it always breaks the angel’s heart.

“I was never strong enough to be an angel,” Crowley muses sadly -- and perhaps a bit dramatically.

Aziraphale takes a steadying breath and coaxes Crowley, who is already lying rather prone on the settee, to rest his head in Aziraphale’s lap. He carefully slips the wine glass out from Crowley’s fingers, judging that both he has had enough and has likely run out of luck in terms of spillages.

“You are very strong, Crowley,” Aziraphale assures him.

“No, no. Not like you,” Crowley says with another wave of his hand, so dramatic this time that Aziraphale thanks the Lord for his foresight regarding the wine glass. Nothing is truly safe from Crowley at the height of his histrionics. And, true to form and expectations, even Aziraphale’s liquor shelf rattles gently from across the room as Crowley sighs loudly. “You, angel -- you’re so strong. The strongest.”

Aziraphale thinks of a muted tartan, of cozy dinners inside, of the scent of chamomile tea with just a hint of mint and a splash of cream in the evenings. “I’m soft, my dear,” Aziraphale reminds him, not unkindly.

Crowley hums. He stretches out, serpentine. For someone so bony, so angular, Aziraphale has always thought his movements remarkably and pleasantly fluid. After shifting around a bit, his feet stick off the end of the settee, legs too long to properly fit.

“You are, you are. And that’s good,” Crowley says, though he chooses not to elaborate on that thought further, despite Aziraphale’s piqued curiosity. “But you’re also strong. One doesn’t negate the other.”

Aziraphale hums. He supposes that it doesn’t.

“We are both strong, then,” Aziraphale says.

“Agree to disagree,” Crowley grumbles, but decides to not continue the argument.

Crowley closes his eyes. Aziraphale watches the way his eyes move about behind his eyelids, and idly wonders what the demon is thinking about. What he’s imagining. It’s not a stretch to make the assumption that Crowley is remembering what it was like, so many years and centuries and eons before, to be an angel, to be a heavenly vessel of God’s love and divinity. There’s no forgetting the shape, the form -- and even though Crowley is proud of his current vessel, Aziraphale knows how he pines.

--

“Let me see?” Crowley asks him, sometimes.

“My dear,” Aziraphale says, never wanting to make the situation worse. “Are you positive?”

“Please.”

Today, Crowley is flat on his back, sprawled out over the Persian rug that sits in the middle of Aziraphale’s sitting room floor. The rug is considered antique only by modern standards -- Aziraphale bought new in at a bazaar in Shiraz in the 17th century what feels like only a few weeks ago.

Time passes strangely for them. Slow, dragging -- and then all at once, a cosmic blink. Aziraphale wonders, sometimes, if Crowley’s Fall feels like forever ago to him -- or if it feels like yesterday.

Aziraphale has never been able to resist Crowley’s pleas, especially not when he looks at Aziraphale so sweetly, with those sad, forlorn eyes of his. The inherent temptation is just too strong. Not that Aziraphale has ever tried particularly hard to keep away from his vices, sweet as they are.

It is the most effortless thing in the world, unfurling from his corporeal body. Expanding to fit the space and perception around them. He spreads out, filling the room, eyes blinking across the ceiling, down the walls, into all of the cracks, like stars. Like distant souls.

They sit like that for hours, for days, Crowley prone and vulnerable on his back, gazing up into Aziraphale’s very heart.

Aziraphale wonders if, in him, Crowley sees the stars, the galaxies he helped create so long ago. He wonders, when Crowley reaches up to touch, to run his fingers through nebulas and swirling elements, if he’s thinking of the beauty he helped become.

Aziraphale, looking down from so many points, seeing Crowley from each and every perspective, certainly seeing the beauty of God’s creation.

--

It’s easy, opening himself up to Crowley. Especially when Crowley is so greedy for it. So ravenous.

Crowley pants for it, begs for it, prays for it. Offering up devotion and worship like he was made for it, built for it. It should feel like sacrilege. Instead, it feels like love. Pure and infinite. Wrought with the pain of passion, the agony of existence. Crowley reaches out for Aziraphale and Aziraphale catches him. Lets him fawn and adore, hands so impatient to touch divinity again.

Before the apocalypse that wasn’t, they didn’t do this. Aziraphale wanted, of course -- he has always wanted so much out of life, out of this word. Hungry for all the things life has to offer. Crowley wanted too; that much was obvious. But they denied themselves, the both of them. For different reasons, yes -- but painful denial all the same.

Now that they are playing no one’s game but theirs, it was only inevitable that they end up like this.

Aziraphale lets Crowley touch, lets him take. He yields to the way Crowley worships him, the way he sees his past in Aziraphale’s downy feathers, in his golden light and his scorching fire.

It’s painful for Crowley, Aziraphale knows. But it’s painful for Aziraphale, too, watching his beloved so torn up with heartache and regret. Not regret for his deeds -- not really -- but for something that was taken away from him: his first skin, his true, God-given form. He is comfortable now in what and who he is, but Aziraphale knows how his essence aches for something no longer there. Like a lost limb, a phantom pain.

--

“My dear,” Aziraphale says, as he watches Crowley pour himself over the leather couch in his own flat. Liquid and alluring, as always.

The air here is different. Less full of dust and more full of life, despite the starkness of the walls. The garden Crowley keeps has expanded to his living room, to his kitchen. A quiet Eden of his own creation. A sanctuary. A mirror image of a place no longer for him.

“Yes, angel?” Crowley says, tilting his head to turn his golden gaze upon Aziraphale. Aziraphale loves those eyes.

“I’d like to see you,” Aziraphale says. Careful, cautious.

“Pretty sure you’re looking right at me,” Crowley says, a hint of a smirk upon his lips. He looks younger, not that Crowley could ever look anything close to anything other than ageless to Aziraphale. Something beautifully infinite.

“I’d like to really see you. All of you.”

“It’s been years since I was a serpent,” Crowley says. The tip of his tongue tastes at the air, forked ever so slightly in jest.

Aziraphale folds himself to his knees in front of Crowley. The floor is hard and cold, but everything about his love for Crowley is warm and soft and strong.

“That’s not quite what I mean,” Aziraphale says. He gives Crowley the time to process the implication, a moment to consider. To understand what Aziraphale truly means. Only then, when he sees the bloom of understanding enter the depths of Crowley’s eyes, does he say: “Would you show me?”

He wants to know what is left of Crowley’s form. Wants to show him how beautiful he is, how cherished and how strong, no matter what the answer to that might be.

“Angel,” Crowley says. His voice is a raw, torn thing. Split up by broken glass and barbed wire and self doubt. “I can’t.”

It pains Aziraphale to see Crowley have such difficulty getting the words out.

“Not today, then,” Aziraphale says. “Whenever you are ready.”

“I don’t know if --.” Crowley doesn’t finish the thought.

Aziraphale takes Crowley’s hand into his, handling his fingers so carefully. Like china. Like something fragile, breakable. He kisses them -- the veins, the knuckles, even the whorls of his fingerprints. Just this little part of Crowley, something so easily given. Aziraphale reveres it like a gift all the same.

“That’s alright,” Aziraphale says. “It’s alright, my dear.”

“I don’t think I can,” Crowley says. “Not anymore.”

Aziraphale kisses his palm, the back of his hand, the pulse beating steadily at his wrist. His skin is cold, but in the most delightful sort of way: the refreshing chill of a sea breeze, the lovely cold of a dewy leaf in the morning. It’s everything Aziraphale loves about winter and its first, perfect snow.

“It’s alright,” Aziraphale repeats.

He doesn’t press.

Crowley is a fruit, ripening in his palms. A peach, a fig, a persimmon. If Aziraphale digs his fingers in too hard, he’ll only bruise delicate flesh. He’ll damage something that’s taken them millennia to nurture between the two of them. This comfort, this safety that Crowley sees in him. This home that they’ve built around each other. Aziraphale would do nothing, nothing to damage that. He’s already said enough hurtful things in their long history together -- he’ll not sully that with even a hint of more.

“No, it’s -- I want to show you,” Crowley says, with what Aziraphale knows is false bravado. “I do. I want to share it. This. With you. Everything.” His fingers close around Aziraphale’s, squeezing his hand tight. “I’m just not sure I can,” Crowley says, finally.

“My darling,” Aziraphale says. “This isn’t lost to you, I promise. There’s nothing more true to you.”

No matter what he has been left with. The only thing that exists is truth, pure and absolute and God-given.

“It’s not the same, I’m not the same.” There are unshed tears glistening at the corners of Crowley’s eyes. Aziraphale wants to kiss them away, but doesn’t dare. Not yet. “That was taken from me.”

“You will always be your beautiful self,” Aziraphale promises. “I promise you, Crowley. There’s nothing in the world more beautiful than you, in any form.”

He has never seen Crowley in his true, angelic form, but he knows. Deep down into his bones. Fundamental. Nothing, not even God, nor any of Her creations, is as beautiful.

The words are blasphemy on his tongue, but they taste of truth. Of love. And how could that be against the will of God?

Crowley nods. A sharp, sudden thing. Fast -- always so fast. “I’ll try. Can’t promise you anything.”

Aziraphale takes them somewhere more comfortable: Crowley’s bed. A place Crowley chooses to spend so much of his time, a place where he feels safe.

Aziraphale spreads Crowley out on top of silk sheets the color of oxblood. He delights in the way Crowley’s pale skin nearly glows against the darkness, such a study in contrasts. It reminds him of the old days, of humans and their sacrifices. Oh, how Crowley used to tempt them, so -- he always loved a good show. This time, Aziraphale thinks, he gets to put on one of his own.

“My darling,” Aziraphale says.

His hands ease the remainder of Crowley’s clothing from his form. Just a gentle touch and half a thought, and it’s all hung nicely in the closet, ironed and pressed like it’s just been given a stern talking-to.

“Angel,” Crowley breathes out, a little prayer of his own. An incantation for Aziraphale’s ears only.

Aziraphale presses his palms flat over Crowley’s ribs and feels the way his chest expands with every breath, the way his heart beats steadily under Aziraphale’s touch. He feels the way Crowley’s breath hitches as Aziraphale’s fingers drag over his skin, touch so reverent and light -- and then harder, hard enough that he leaves little red lines in his wake. A tease, just the way Crowley likes it.

“That’s it, love,” Aziraphale reassures him. Coaxes him. “You’re safe. You can let go.”

From the space in between thoughts, Crowley’s wings unfurl. First, two of them. Then, more. They unfold like space and time itself, black like the night, like the deep embrace of sorrow. The feathers of them are glossy, well taken-care of. Aziraphale should know -- he sometimes spends days preening them for Crowley; the only part of Crowley’s non-human form that he typically shares with Aziraphale, other than his yellow, reptilian eyes -- which Aziraphale knows he would rather not, anyway.

He’s much more well-acquainted with Crowley’s primary wings, the largest of the bunch. But he’s seen the others before, too. He doesn’t count them, doesn’t even try. They shift and fade in and out of his vision -- innumerous, unfathomable. Just like Aziraphale’s own -- but dark. A study in opposites.

“That’s it, love,” Aziraphale says.

He shifts his hands from the ladder of Crowley’s ribs to the softness of the feathers of his primary wings, pleased with how instantly Crowley melts with his touch, with his praise. As Aziraphale works his fingers through the feathers he feels Crowley shudder, a full-body movement that has the picture frames rattling on the walls.

“You’re beautiful, my darling,” Aziraphale says, pressing a kiss to the hollow of Crowley’s throat, just to watch the way it steals away Crowley’s breath.

When Crowley lets out a sigh, Aziraphale feels the temperature of the air drop, going cold, going icy. He breathes in the change, smelling myrrh, fresh earth, and just a hint of brimstone, too. It smells like Crowley, the way he did when he first sidled up next to Aziraphale on the wall of Eden. It poured off him then, perhaps because he was so new, so fresh from his Fall. Or perhaps because he didn’t care to hide it so much, back then. Either way, it’s a familiar smell, something that lingers around the edges of his lover, filtering out from the very essence of him when he is most relaxed.

Aziraphale breathes it in, filling his lungs with the scent of him, dipping his head down to bury his nose in the feathers of Crowley’s left primary wing. The feathers tickle his cheeks, so soft against delicate skin. Aziraphale delights in it, in the way his nerves spark up, alive, with just the gentlest of touches from Crowley’s wings.

When he pulls back, nothing has changed -- except for how it has.

Crowley’s wings are still unfurled, spread out against the oxblood canvas Aziraphale has pinned him to. Like a specimen: perfect and pristine, fanned out in all his glory, to be treasured and admired. But his wings are darker now, the color of dreams, of heartache, of void. There is more of him to be seen now than just what he normally shows, more of him exposed and freely given.

A gift, given in vulnerability, in trust.

Crowley is breathtaking.

Aziraphale’s own wings are covered in eyes. Hundreds of them, shining like stars in the night, reflecting heavenly light and love. Crowley’s wings once had eyes, too. Aziraphale can see that, now -- now that Crowley has let him. The sockets are burned out, darker than his wings themselves. The eyes that sit there, left behind, are half-formed thoughts, distorted memories. They shine opalescent, like that of deep-sea fish, of animals left alone in the darkness for too long without God’s light, without her warmth. They are un-seeing, blind.

Crowley is unaware of them, sightless of his own form, his own beauty.

It breaks Aziraphale’s heart.

“Oh, my love,” Aziraphale says.

He presses his lips an inch away from one of the charred sockets. The eye there remains unseeing, unblinking into the darkness that wraps around the two of them as Crowley unfolds himself from the space between. Now, once he has started, it seems impossible for him to stop -- like a cup spilling over.

Aziraphale gifts Crowley with kiss after kiss, though he knows he cannot possibly kiss each and every one of those burned out, black places where lively, golden eyes once lived. But still, he can try.

He can try to show Crowley he is as beautiful now as he was before.

Below him, Crowley’s two demonic eyes are closed tight, refusing to see, refusing to look upon himself. Aziraphale wonders if this is the first time he’s let himself unwind and unravel like this since his Fall, or if he’s done it before in a weaker moment. He wonders if Crowley has been simply too scared to open his eyes to bear witness to his given consequences.

It was eons ago, Aziraphale knows. He can count the days -- and before that, the time without borders nor delineation. And yet, trauma has no timeline, no expiration date. To Crowley -- to both of them -- time passes differently. It’s a strange construct for beings made of light, built for eternity everlasting. Aziraphale knows that Crowley is sometimes millennia away from his anguish -- and others, he is still Falling, still trapped in a constant loop of something that isn’t quite regret, but more like waking sorrow.

“You are beautiful,” Aziraphale tells him, as he threads his fingers through feathers of darkness, letting black smoke trail from the places he’s touched, encouraging it billow out around the two of them like threads of incense into the air.

Aziraphale is made of eyes and wheels of fire, of snowy wings and divine light. His very essence is threaded through with shining sight and righteous fury.

Crowley is the after-image, the shadow. The negative, undeveloped and in reverse. His everything is cold, and blind, eating up all the light in its wake. As ravenous as a black hole -- and just as stunning.

Crowley is, despite his fears, just as strong. Just as fearsome.

Aziraphale cannot help but quake with the true sight of him, expanding out under a heavenly touch. Unwrapping, when confronted with something as easy and feral as love eternal.

A kiss, right to the heart of him. Where his skin shines bright through the darkness, littered with more unseeing eyes, the very heart of a storm. Luminous sigils twist like snakes across the canvas of him, a long unspoken language of righteous divinity littering his skin. Aziraphale kisses those, too, and feels the way Crowley shakes with it, the way he trembles.

“Gorgeous,” Aziraphale breathes out. “More so than any sunrise, than any garden. You are breathtaking, my darling. Radiant beyond words.”

“Angel,” Crowley says, and his voice sounds like discordant chimes, a broken melody Aziraphale has long since forgotten. “I can’t see.”

He will not open his serpentine eyes to himself, but Aziraphale knows that those are not capable of the sight to which Crowley refers, something long since taken from him. 

Aziraphale presses another kiss over Crowley’s heart, then to his collar, to his neck, his jaw, and then, finally, to the seal of his lips.

“You don’t have to see,” he says, knowing Crowley cannot open his remaining eyes to this, not now. Not yet. “You’ll have to trust me.”

“I do, angel,” Crowley says after a moment, voice barely even a breath. Like perhaps he’s holding himself in.

Aziraphale settles in over Crowley’s hips, thighs bracketing him in, holding him down against the sheets. His fingers trail over every inch of Crowley -- touching, teasing, mapping out every divot, every curve, every point. Crowley is made of mostly sharp edges, cutting out the very fabric of space itself so that he can exist. Aziraphale loves that about him, loves that he exudes an air of begrudging assertion of his presence, even if it is not always backed by the confidence he so easily projects.

“Good,” Aziraphale says. “That’s good.” And then, upon further consideration, he says: “You’re very good.”

He doesn’t quite expect the moan that falls so sweetly from Crowley’s lips at the praise, but it’s not a surprise, either. After all these years, nothing about Crowley is quite a surprise, anymore. Sometimes Aziraphale takes risks, unknowing -- but they are not without calculation. Like this: pressing Crowley about his form to help him confront it, to show him how beautiful he truly is. Left to his own devices, Crowley wouldn’t consider it before the very fabric of the universe itself was beginning to unravel. And even then, Aziraphale is unsure.

“So very good,” Aziraphale says again, because it’s important to test a hypothesis more than once.

Underneath him, the sweetest little noise slips from between Crowley’s lips. The demon shivers and arches, like he’s seeking more, trying to get closer to the heat of the praise. Aziraphale cannot help himself from humming in sheer delight, in murmuring quiet little somethings as he leans down to press his lips to Crowley’s, offering another, more physical form of praise.

Crowley eats it up, hungry for it, lips as sweet as honey.

When Aziraphale pulls back just to look down at his lover, Crowley has revealed himself even more.

He is panting, gasping, long fingers holding onto the meat of Aziraphale’s thighs for anchor, for stability. But it’s not his limbs Aziraphale is transfixed by, it is the blue gold fire that encircles him in rings, burning so hot that the licks of it feel cold against the angel’s skin. The wheels of fire circumscribe them both, enveloping the two of them into the eye of a storm of cobalt flecked with droplets of gold. It is, by far, one of the most stunning moments Aziraphale has ever experienced. Even the creation of this galaxy, though he was but a fledgeling for that, pales in comparison.

He doesn’t have to close his eyes to see the oceans, the skies, the heavens. The nebulas and the stars. They are all right here, in Crowley’s bedroom.

And, in the center of it all: Crowley.

Crowley, spread out on seas of crimson sheets, ready for the taking. A willing sacrifice to Aziraphale’s hedonism, his ravenous love.

Crowley, with a cracked and broken halo of gold amongst the spread of darkness, amongst all the licking flames of blue. In all of it, his many eyes are unseeing, blind to his own shocking beauty, blind to the way Aziraphale cannot look away.

“My dear,” Aziraphale says, for once at a loss for words. He speaks countless languages, including those from on most high -- and still, he finds nothing. He settles on purity of meaning, instead. Simplicity.

“You are the most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen,” he tells his beloved.

The simple words pale in comparison to Crowley’s true beauty -- but Aziraphale suspects that, even given another six thousand years, he would never be able to find quite the right words to describe the artistry of Crowley’s form. No sonnet, no ode, no ballad would ever be able to truly ensnare the perfect sentiment, the way Aziraphale feels upon being gifted this sight.

Under Aziraphale’s praise, Crowley glows.

Above him, his halo is ablaze. Broken and golden and shining through the darkness around them. Illuminating his form, his hollowed out eyes, his multitude of wings. He stretches out underneath Aziraphale and shines.

“Please,” Crowley says, word fracturing into a thousand notes in the air between them, falling into mica thats rain down, brilliant. Tiny stars in the confines of their darkness.

Aziraphale is powerless to refuse.

He worships Crowley with his hands, touching over every molecule of him as Crowley shudders in response. Crowley arches and stretches, displaying himself over silk, gasping at the gentlest of caresses.

“Angel,” Crowley cries out, sweat beading on his skin, desire crystalizing in the air.

Like a dessert, a delicacy, Aziraphale finally puts his lips to sweet skin to indulge. He samples every part of Crowley’s body as it shifts underneath him, as it trembles and oscillates between forms. One moment, Crowley is as human as they come, and in the next he is everything. A cacophony. Too much for a mere mortal to absorb at once.

Aziraphale licks into him and swallows him down all at once, shifting, shaking, satiating. He feels watched, seen through blind eyes, all of Crowley’s focus on him at once, as he cannot focus on himself. Aziraphale worships and praises him with his lips, adoring. There are no words left, not with Crowley filling his mouth and pressing down on his tongue -- but Crowely hears them anyway, shivering with it, with the heat of Aziraphale’s hunger.

“More,” Crowley pleads. “Please, angel, please.”

Crowley is an angel in his own right. As beautiful as one, as terrifying, as annihilating.

Aziraphale fears for how much he wants. He aches with it, the desire to please Crowley, the unrepentant need to show him how gorgeous he is, how truly appreciated. How strong.

“You beautiful creature,” Aziraphale says.

He pulls back only to push into Crowley with his fingers, his tongue loosening the way. He is wet, honey-sweet and dripping. A delicacy born from the Heavens, Aziraphale's favorite indulgence. Crowley cries out, desperate, when Aziraphale stops, only quieting when Aziraphale presses forward to fill him with his length.

Crowley opens up for him, slick and warm, fueled by Aziraphale’s accolades, his love. It feels like a completion, like coming home to the heavens, like closing a loop. The two of them are an ancient circuit, forever buzzing with energy, a live current. He shivers, pleasure rushing through him as he pushes in and in, Crowley’s form yielding to him, going easy against his touch.

Around them, stars blink in and out of existence, created and then unmade. Crowley’s wings shake and tremble, ruffling the heavens as Aziraphale’s own stretch out alongside them. Pressing in, pressing up, feathers fluttering together into one.

Crowley arches up off the sheets and Aziraphale drives in deeper, filling him up. His fingers splay out over Crowley’s ribs, counting over them like he’s charting unknown topography. So careful, so thorough. Like he doesn’t know every slope of Crowley’s body already, every dot, every divot.

Which, he realizes -- up until now, he hadn’t. He hadn’t known the beauty that is Crowley’s blackened, burnt-out eyes, hadn’t seen his fire, his inner blaze. Aziraphale didn’t know the way that his halo breaks light, shattering the space around it. Hadn’t witnessed the magnificence of his true form.

It is a gift that Crowely has given him, the utmost declaration of trust. Aziraphale knows that it means everything: Crowley is a creature of vanity and pride, caring so deeply about how others perceptions. It took so painfully long to coax just those sunglasses off Crowley’s face for good, so long to be granted access to those golden eyes hidden behind darkened glass, that Aziraphale knows just how much this much means. There’s nothing more important Crowley could give him -- it’s as if he pried open his ribcage, his raw innards exposed, to bear his soul witness to Aziraphale.

Aziraphale touches all of him with the reverence he deserves, leaving love and praise in his wake. Crowley’s skin blooms underneath the press of his fingers, the seal of his lips. He blossoms like spring, sucking in healing breaths of change.

Aziraphale knows, he sees, that Crowley is so strong, so capable. He tells him as such. In a hundred words, in a thousand thoughts. In a kiss, straight to his lover’s fiery core.

Crowley breaks apart for him, shattering into pieces at the final press of Aziraphale’s lips.

A shout, a cry, a moan. A song born of Aziraphale’s name.

For a moment, Aziraphale is blinded, left without sight. Adrift in the darkness, just like Crowley and his hollowed-out eyes. But Aziraphale’s fingers are still connected to Crowley’s warmth, still anchored to his form. It takes little effort to shift himself, to bury his touch in Crowely’s wings, to press his mouth to the hollow of Crowley’s neck. Aziraphale breathes him in, such a familiar smell -- one of home, of safety, of strength.

When he blinks his eyes open, everything is back to how it was before they began.

Crowley’s skin is mole-dotted and pale, smooth and unmarred. Aziraphale draws his fingertips over it, touching the memories of those hollowed-out places, remembering each exact location where Crowley has been left blind. Those dark wings have all folded back away, into the space between thoughts, in between words. The air around them is empty, barren of stars, galaxies, or even dust. There is no longer any fire, no broken halo -- no hint left that Crowley was anything but who Aziraphale has right here before him, right now, in this moment in time.

When Aziraphale meets Crowley’s golden gaze, his eyes are glistening wet with tears.

Aziraphale falters for one moment, one heartbeat, before Crowley is smiling, wide and fond and so very raw.

Aziraphale feels split in two, but in the most pure, fulfilling way. He feels accomplished. He feels spent.

“Thank you, Angel,” Crowley breathes out.

A hint of mica floats through the air as he speaks, catching the dawn light that shines in from the window. Aziraphale can see the after-image of Crowley’s halo, fanning out on the pillow around his wild hair. He is a work of art like this, too.

“You are so beautiful, my dear. In any form, you are absolutely, Earth-shatteringly devastating,” Aziraphale tells him, leaning down to press a kiss to Crowley’s lips.

Crowley hums. Sated and satisfied, he is apparently ill-content to argue. Perhaps he is even receptive to the truth.

“That was certainly something,” Crowley says, carefully. “It felt -- good. Refreshing. Like stretching after a long nap.” He punctuates his words with a stretch of his own. And then: a yawn, serpentine and lazy and full of teeth.

“It has been nearly six-thousand years, hasn’t it?”

Crowley nods, fingertips trailing over Aziraphale’s skin, catching in his hair. Ghosting over all of Crowley’s favorite parts of him -- which is to say, the whole. A small, subtle worship of his own.

“It used to be so difficult,” Crowley says, after a quiet beat. Aziraphale wonders what he means -- difficult to not think of it, difficult to not shift back into it, difficult to conceptualize at all? -- but doesn’t press. He has already pushed, already pressed. Crowley will tell him, in time. They have so much of it. Ages and eons to go.

“You are very strong, my love,” Aziraphale tells him. “The strongest creature I have ever met. I am very proud of you, I’ll have you know.”

“Oh shush, Angel,” Crowley says. “You’re being over-dramatic.” But he’s smiling again, radiating the heat of it, enveloping the two of them in glistening blue warmth.

“Perhaps I will just have to convince you further,” Aziraphale says, and seals his promise with a kiss.