Aziraphale noticed the looks first. He was used to them; he did rather tend to stand out in a crowd. They were subtler than they sometimes had been in the past, at least, a small blessing. But still –
He and Crowley had gone to visit an arboretum that day, intending to enjoy the flourish of spring. It was warm and pleasant and not raining, with just enough sun to make the heart glad without also making it long a bit for a parasol. They held hands, because it pleased them to do so.
“Oh, angel, look over here.” Crowley plowed them straight through a crowd of tourists to examine a bit of groundcover. “Just the thing for in front of the front garden wall, innit?” They were looking to replace the little strip of grass that was hanging on there, and Crowley thought he might have found just the thing.
“It's lovely, dear boy,” Aziraphale said warmly, and it was. Little gray-green leaves spread luxuriantly, dotted with pale purple flowers.
Crowley knelt to examine them more closely, and was pleased to find a faint but pleasant herb-y scent. And also that when he bared his teeth, the patch grew a little thicker, and the perfume a little stronger. Always a good sign in a species.
“They'll be just the thing. Smell that?”
Aziraphale nodded slowly, joining Crowley to kneel right by the little patch. “Oh, yes. That will go wonderfully with the roses.”
Crowley grinned at him. “So? May I?”
“Of course, my dear, anything you like,” Aziraphale said warmly as he rose, levering himself up with the help of Crowley's shoulder. “Note down the species for me, and I'll make sure we order some in.” He was doing a round of plantings in the back garden, and it would be easier to get everything all together.
Crowley took a quick picture with his extremely new and extremely thin and extremely black mobile phone, and bounced to his feet. “Well, that's that settled. I'll write it down for you when we get back”
Aziraphale laughed when Crowley kissed his cheek, enjoying the spontaneous affection his demon boy was so good at. “I'm so glad you like your new toy,” he teased. “I saw it, and thought of you instantly.”
“Very much, angel. Where to next?”
“Oh, you decide, you know I'm having more fun watching you,” Aziraphale told him warmly. He took Crowley's proffered arm, and smiled beatifically at the woman who'd been shooting daggers at them from her eyes for the last five minutes.
“Kiss me,” he murmured to Crowley. “Please.”
Crowley did not have to be asked twice, merely turned and took Aziraphale in his arms under a dogwood tree and gave him a very nice kiss indeed.
“Who are we irritating?” he murmured. “Do I need to involve tongue?”
Aziraphale shook his head very slightly, and enjoyed the hell out of his kiss. “She's gone now.” He winked. “Thank you, my dear.”
“My pleasure. Backwards old bat,” Crowley said, as Aziraphale re-took his arm. “Do love you,” he added, because that had been for show, but also not.
“I love you too,” Aziraphale assured him, gazing at his...whatever Crowley was to him. He did look very smashing that day, he thought. All in black, of course, and cut to the most fashionable lines. Hair pulled back in a tight ponytail, chic sunglasses that were unfortunate but necessary, and sun lighting his skin up as he moved, easy and light through the world. Well, no wonder people stared at them – Crowley was worth staring at.
People stared over lunch, too, when Aziraphale managed to get the check before Crowley did for the first time in about two years, and took immense pleasure in very openly paying for their meal. The look from a man by the door got him a kiss without even asking for one. They managed to make it around the corner before breaking down into giggles.
It made for a good story a few days later, when Aziraphale was having tea with the head of the local WI, who had approached him about perhaps giving a small lecture on antique books. They had found they had much in common, including an abiding love for Blake and William Morris (they would be giving a join lecture on the latter to the Art Appreciation Society three villages over) and husbands with extremely...passionate attitudes towards plants. They were becoming quite good friends, actually.
Harriet hid a smile, when Aziraphale proudly told her about getting snogged in front of the entire High Street.
“What?” he asked, topping up her tea.
“Nothing! Only.” She smiled more. “My dear. I have no doubt you'll encounter the most backward specimens of humanity, but I don't think. Well. You two are. Er. Well, there's gossip.”
“How can there be gossip? We're married.” Aziraphale pointed out. “Rings and everything.” Sure they hadn't technically published banns and they certainly hadn't had a church wedding, but they'd decided they were married and given each other rings and that was good enough for him. It wasn't like people'd be checking to see if the government knew they were married – right?
“Not about that. Only. Aziraphale, dear.” She laughed. “Oh, I'll just come out with it, not like there's anything to be ashamed of. People who don't know better think you're Anthony's sugar daddy.”
“Oh?” Aziraphale said, mind racing to figure out what in the actual Heaven a sugar daddy was.
“At first glance – well, I know you're the same age, and anyone who spends time with you knows, but you do look...older than him. Quite a bit older, actually. Depending on what Anthony is wearing that day.” Harriet thought very fondly of some get-ups she'd seen said Anthony Crowley in. “Most days,” she added. “For people not familiar, it looks like you're. Well. Keeping him in a manner to which he's become accustomed.”
“Wait. Are you saying all the gossip about us is that Crowley is – is my kept boy?” Aziraphale asked, wide-eyed.
“Oh, it's terrible, isn't it?” Harriet rushed to say. “Of course we all know it isn't true, dear, but people do find things to talk about don't they? It's awful.”
“It's wonderful,” Aziraphale said, giving into laughter. “Harriet, my dearest, I'm not insulted.” He wiped his eyes, debated telling her that if anything it was the other way 'round, and decided they were not that good friends. “Oh, goodness. Well, I suppose I can see that. Unfashionable older gentleman with a gorgeous young thing on his arm...”
“You, hush,” Harriet said gently. “Anthony is quite a bit older than he likes to think he is, and you're perfectly handsome all on your own. People just don't know how to see.”
“And that, my dear, is why we are friends,” Aziraphale said, saluting her with his teacup and carefully ignoring everything else she had said. People didn't know how to see, but they were both definitely older than they pretended to be, and as for handsomeness. Well. Handsome was as handsome did.
Later, he proudly informed Crowley that half the South Downs thought he was Crowley's sugar daddy.
“Oh, if only they bloody knew!” Crowley hooted through laughter. “Right, yes, I'm definitely being kept by the biggest pillow princess known to mankind!”
“Stop calling me that!” Aziraphale protested.
“Why? It's true.” Crowley grinned and took Aziraphale's glass of wine, setting it aside so he could safely haul his angel into his lap. “It's one of your finest characteristics, in fact.”
“It's very selfish of me, and you shouldn't encourage it,” Aziraphale attempted to scold.
Crowley made a rude noise, and bussed his cheek. “What the hell do they know, anyway? Also I am insulted on your behalf, for the record. Thinking only money could get you an attractive lover!” He frowned. “Aziraphale. I'm not joking. That's a terrible thing to think about you.”
“Oh, what do we care?” Aziraphale said. “Our friends know better, and everyone else can go take a flying leap.I'm done with caring what people think of me, even if they are mostly nicer than Heaven about it.” He kissed Crowley, and touched their foreheads together. “You love me. Anyone who can't see it, that's their problem.”
“Hmph.” Crowley reached for his glass of wine, holding it to Aziraphale's lips first so he could have a sip.
“Oh, don't be upset, please?” Aziraphale begged.
“I'm not,” Crowley protested. “Just.”
Crowley shrugged. “Nothing. I don't know. It's not important.”
“It's upsetting you, so it's important,” Aziraphale argued. He thought for a moment. “You can keep snogging me very obviously, just in case they're also homophobic,” he pointed out. “That won't stop.”
“Well, I'd hope not,” Crowley said. And kissed Aziraphale – just to keep in practice.
It kept bothering Crowley, though; he tried to hide it, but he was always pretty bad at that kind of thing, Aziraphale thought fondly. He tried to soothe Crowley with attention and kisses and an extra cuddle here and there, in case he was feeling a little touch-starved. His demon responded warmly, of course, smiling and snuggling happily, returning the kisses with interest. It wasn't until a few nights later that Aziraphale got it, though.
Crowley had taken them out to dinner, some flashy new place that surprised them both by being more than just glitter and SEO-friendly words. They enjoyed themselves thoroughly from soup to nuts, so to speak – there were sugared almonds on Aziraphale's cake that he finished with, anyway. One of which he happily hand-fed to Crowley, which somehow distracted Aziraphale enough that he didn't leap for the cheque in time, and Crowley, as usual, beat him to it.
“My treat,” he said with a wink.
“You needn't pretend we switch off,” Aziraphale told him. “I get it about once a year at our current rate!”
Crowley shrugged and smiled. “I like buying you dinner,” he said.
“I know you don't mind, I just --”
“I like it,” Crowley interrupted. “Love it. Love watching you enjoy yourself, you know that.” He gave Aziraphale a very dirty grin. Someone at the next table dropped their fork with a loud clatter.
“Well!” Aziraphale went sweetly pink, and stayed that way until they left, hand in hand. If anyone was giving them a funny look, neither of them were going to notice, they were so lost in the other.
Crowley drove them home, of course, and Aziraphale had to tell him to watch the road dear boy not me , you know what I look like about six times, and he beat his own personal best time, not least because his angel looked delicious tonight.
Crowley chattered about whatever came into his head, and in between strangled screams Aziraphale made encouraging or interested sounds, and he felt exactly like a cat who'd got...something. What did cats get? Fish?
“Cream!” he shouted as the pulled into sight of their cottage and Aziraphale gave one last quiet scream. “That's what cats get!”
“Please just park the car,” Aziraphale said. “Also when you inevitably discorporate us and it takes us centuries to complete the paperwork, I do not want to hear one word of complaint from you.”
“Aw, you're safe with me, angel,” Crowley said cheerfully, and kissed his cheek. “Early bedtime?”
Aziraphale gave him a distinctly unimpressed look. And made himself a cup of tea the moment they were inside, just to make Crowley wait a bit.
But an early bedtime they had. Or, well – it was quite early and there was a bed, but there was distinctly no sleeping. For either party. For quite some time.
Crowley's arms gave out and he collapsed onto Aziraphale, still panting. Feeling distinctly fuzzy around the edges, he made sure he had a human number of limbs and no wings. Well, no more than two wings. Four at most .
Aziraphale made a soft noise, and Crowley smirked to himself. He did like reducing the angel to a place beyond speech.
A snap cleaned them both up, and Crowley snuggled further into his beloved's warmth, resting his head on Aziraphale's chest and tracing lines down his body with one hand. Soft touches, gentling Aziraphale down back into himself. And pleasing Crowley, of course. He loved Aziraphale's body so; the flat plane of his chest, his nipples that responded so nicely to breath or touch, the round of belly and his soft sides. They were, Crowley had learned, called love handles for a reason , and it was a wholly good reason, as far as he was concerned.
“Oh my dearest,” Aziraphale moaned, and gave a little stretch. “You've outdone yourself.” He opened his eyes and blinked, took a moment to focus. “You indulge me too much.”
“There's no such thing,” Crowley said, and kissed him. “Do you want some water, darling? A snack?”
Aziraphale shook his head and smiled. “Just stay here with me, please.”
“Of course, angel. Whatever you want.”
“What about what you want?” Aziraphale asked softly. “I know you enjoy – well, the way we do...things...”
“More than you can imagine,” Crowley groaned.
“I have a pretty good imagination.”
This startled a laugh out of Crowley, and he kissed Aziraphale happily. “I know,” he said, grinning. “That's what makes you so much fun.” He rested his hand on Aziraphale's belly, adoring the soft, smooth skin. Their bodies were deliciously different, and he kissed right over Aziraphale's heart. “I love giving you pleasure,” he said. “As much as you love being treated – well, the way I treat you.”
Aziraphale nodded. “I believe you,” he said, and lifted a hand to rest over Crowley's. Crowley noticed that Aziraphale's hand was still trembling from, well, him , and he nearly set himself on fire, he was so glowing with pride. “I don't understand, exactly, but I believe you.” He smiled at Crowley, adoration clear on his face. “Just. You make me so happy, Crowley. I want you to feel the same. To know that you are the sole focus of all of my love and my thoughts and that everything I do is to your pleasure. Like I know,” he added shyly.
Crowley groaned, and dropped his head to Aziraphale's chest, kissing wherever he landed. “Oh, angel. I know you love me, that you feel all of that. It's just – that's not what does it for me,” he tried to explain. “I want to be the reason you let go. You trust me. What I. What feels good.”
He paused and took a deep breath. Words, words were really hard, his mouth could be put to better use. But Aziraphale asked, in a way, and he deserved an answer.
“The way you feel when I'm doing things for you. Dinner, orgasm, whatever. That way. I feel like that when. Um.” Another deep breath, and Aziraphale's hand rested on his back, tracing the line of scales there. It gave him something to focus on for a moment, and a few more deep breaths.
“I love that you are happy because I am.” He closed his eyes tightly; even for pillow talk this was getting intimate. “I mean, that you are happy because I exist, and I can do things to make you feel so much bliss you forget to be. To be anxious. To worry. To do anything but feel all the joy you deserve and have always deserved. And it's 'cause of me.”
Aziraphale drew in a deep breath, and for the second time that night ran out of words. Crowley was grateful; he had said so much and his heart was too exposed, and what would his angel do , Aziraphale loved him too much sometimes, he thought, it wasn't right, all the love should go one way –
It didn't work like that, though, and he knew it. They were still figuring out how to make this thing be good, even after six thousand years. And that meant Crowley letting a little love in on his side, and it meant Aziraphale loving him so carefully and so gently that Crowley didn't notice until he woke up one morning in Aziraphale's arms, tender and warm, and he felt happiness like he hadn't ever felt. Only humans got to feel this much joy, he'd always believed. Crowley got used to it the way you'd get used to a bath that started out too hot, and then cradled your body and soothed aches you didn't even know about. Never faltering, never withholding, but there , the firmest of foundations.
Aziraphale's mind reeled as he held Crowley close, both arms around him, not moving beyond that lest he overwhelm his poor love. It was...incredible. Impossible. Aziraphale, who wasn't beloved by anyone, who was a failure of an angel, was now so loved that his pleasure gave Crowley pleasure. His joy meant something to someone – and not just someone, to his best friend, his beloved. He was foolish and soft and loved too easily, and someone adored him for it, and he finally understood it. Or, at least, understood Crowley a little bit better – and why Crowley did so like to show off and treat him and spoil him. It made no sense, but then nothing did, and so it made perfect sense.
He pressed his lips to the top of Crowley's head, smiling into his hair, such a beautiful flame red. He held Crowley steady, and gave him a safe place to feel his feelings. Tomorrow they would stay close to each other, and he'd touch Crowley as much as he could – get him to snuggle in Aziraphale's lap while he read aloud to them, or they could go on a walk, holding hands the whole time. Kiss his demon good morning, and touch his wrist to get his attention, a hand at the small of his back to show him something. And love, openly and obviously and freely, everything Crowley did for him. Maybe get a few rumors started the other way – true ones. That Crowley took care of Aziraphale, treated and spoiled him and loved him more than anyone ever had.
It had taken some doing, but Aziraphale accepted, even if he didn't fully understand. He watched Crowley drift off in his arms, and loved with everything that was him. He was made to love, made of love, and he had to trust that that would be good enough in return for all he'd been given.