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Pandora's Book

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Pandora’s Book

He finds them two weeks after the not end of the world. He’d been tearing through every book he had but never had read and then going out and searching for more when he’d run out of those. It seemed as if he had suddenly been hit by the realization that all of this, all these wonderful and terrible things humans had made, books included, had been nearly lost. Forever. And he hadn’t read it all. There were things unexplored and memories that needed refreshing through the power of the written word. So he’d b egun tearing through book after scroll after script after tome.

Perhaps he’d been a bit frenetic about the whole thing.

But it all came crashing to a halt on Tuesday afternoon, the taste of a good earl grey tea still lingering on his tongue, as he ran his fingers across the spines of his newest additions. They were an unusual bunch. He’d gotten them as a package deal. He’d really only wanted the first edition collection of Sappho’s works, but he’d been allowed it only if he bought the whole case. Well. Not like money was an option to stop him even if he loathed to pay the price asked.

He picked from the books remaining at random. They were his now, might as well peruse them, see what humanity had written, be it good or bad or somewhere inbetween.

The book he picked up seemed to have a bit of all of it. Much like humanity as a whole, he supposed.

It was a collection of works from various authors. The forward said that while he had been an accomplished poet in his own right, some of the people he met seemed to have far wiser or more beautiful words than he. He simply could not let their words go on unnoticed and unremarked upon just because they had an unfortunate lack of fame to peddle them with. So here were the words, letters sent or shared, conversations or songs uttered, here they were written down. Some were signed, others left blank, and others still were hidden, tucked behind initials or clever pen-names.

Most of it seemed good; there were a few bits that were rather breathtaking and a few bits that were more than just dull, but on the whole he was having a pleasant evening in his armchair with his tea reading it.

He always read the names, the initials, whatever it was signed with, as a kind of game with himself. Could he spot a familiar name that made it big or even just had one thing published? Most of the names in the book had multiple poems so even the ones that were left with just pen-names were not too difficult to place. Having a steady sense of their prose, of their rhythm, and of their choice of metaphors helped place the individual if Aziraphale did in fact know them or their works. The ones signed with only initials with only a single poem or two were much harder.

Perhaps that’s why he kept such a record of who wrote what, often tracing back to compare poems to one another if written by the same individual. His mind whirling through authors famous and unknown, comparing comparing comparing

Perhaps that’s why the initials didn’t strike him as anything spectacular, anything familiar, anything more than just another puzzle to solve, perhaps that’s why he didn’t think of something familiar, something close to him, someone dear to him

He was up too close, loosing the forest for the trees.

At least, he was until the tree slammed into the car

or the car into the tree

or really

it was him in a bently talking about love

and then being slammed forward in his seat when they hit that lovely woman.

He’s reeling from the hit, staring down at the page before him as the words sound in his head, so so familiar

and they were familiar

but they could have been said by anyone

anyone could string together that set of words

anyone could place it in a poem

Crowley didn’t even like poetry, sneered at it, mocked it

But wasn’t that just like him? Wasn’t that just what he did?- he acts tough, blusters, pretends he doesn’t like a thing when it’s a very undemonic thing. When it’s a thing he doesn’t think he deserves. When-

Aziraphale reads.

It’s not great. It’s really not anything all too special, he’s consumed thousands and hundreds of thousands of poets and he knows there’s nothing too special here, nothing spectacular except for the way that if AJC is his Anthony J Crowley then it tugs and rips at his heart at his soul at him

So Aziraphale reads and tries to find a demon too kind between the lines of emotions demons aren’t supposed to have. Tries to find a familiar voice sat betwixt the letters of thoughts rendered on paper in a letter shared with a man Aziraphale’s never met. Tries to read anything but the way the lines drip of Aziraphale Aziraphale Aziraphale

Tries not hurt at the tender ache in it all

He reads lines like

 

Of all the faces he wears

the one when he’s caught off guard

wine-drunk and thoughtlessly loose

the one where

we’re secluded away

deluded in a moment of

we’re safe we’re hidden we’re safe

that’s the face I love best

the one that doesn’t lie

with every forced smile or

facade of unfeeling strength

the one that frets

or lets himself enjoy

all the things he deserves

yet thinks himself undeserving of

 

he reads

 

I cannot get too close

if not for him forbading it

warding me off

and he should

he should

I am nothing good

nothing that he deserves to have

if I had him I

would not let go

I don’t know how

I strangle things

with too tight coils

with an ache I cannot suppress

I would gather him tight

I would kiss constellations

across his breast bone

down his stomach

across his thighs

and down his arms

I would leave

stardust light presses of lips

against the soft skin

of the inside of his wrist

feel the pulse of his heart

the unneeded one he has

despite it all

the one with kindness

and bastardness

mixed together

like the finest wine

I would cradle it beneath my lips

worship it in the most

unholy of manners

in the most profane of ways

I would not be able to stop

it would kill me i’m certain

no

it’s best he forestalls me

forbids me

denies me

I am nothing good

and he deserves nothing but that

 

he reads

 

I am terrible

and no good

and hardly any good at that

I ache for terrible things

awful things

my hands feel empty

and they yearn

for the joy

the privilege

the chance

to cradle his jaw in my palms

the way stars were once held

formed

made

loved

When he’s around

my whole body sways towards him

towards his heat

his light

like a snake to a rock

to the sun

to a supernova

surely I will burn

but there will be no sweeter torment

than to finally go

by that which plagues me

at night

and during waking hours

with such ferocity

that surely I

am already dying.

 

He reads

 

I’d slow the world if I thought

for just a moment

that it was what you wanted

what you needed

I fear I cannot do

that one thing which

you asked of me

I don’t know how to let go

how to not come

how to not search for you

feel out for you

come to you

I do not know how to stay away

I only know how to be around you

in your orbit

space was never so cold

before I knew your warmth

I’ve been cursed once to crawl

and yet you ask it of me again

alright

fine

I never have been able to deny you

have I?

I fear though

going much slower

will be a standstill

but angel

whatever you want

is yours.

 

He reads until he cannot. He reads until he cannot because he has run out of poems by AJC. He rereads them. He tries to pick them apart, see if it’s really Crowley, his Crowley, but his chest is tight and his core is humming with something, and deep within himself he asks how could it be anyone but him?

He doesn’t know what to do with this information.

He does

He doesn’t know how to handle this epiphany, this proclamation of things he knew already.

Oh but he does he does he does

He doesn’t know how to reveal to Crowley that he’s seen, read, been told so much more than the demon probably ever meant to reveal.

With a tenderness that breaks him

nothing less

with an all encompassing love

with love

simply love

Aziraphale steals a breath, and then another to fortify himself. He closes the book but marks the pages. He has work to do. He will take Crowley apart with love but it must be gentle and tender and lovely. And it must be slow. He cannot scare him off now, no matter how the demon blusters, his heart has always been a terribly soft and bruised thing wrapped in thorns.