Actions

Work Header

Firecomb

Work Text:

 

··· ♡ ···


 

”Now, you remember, young Warlock, as you grow, to have love, and reverence, for all living things.”

Young Warlock frowned. “Nanny says living things are only fit to be ground under my heels, Brother Francis.”

Aziraphale chuckled, internally despairing at Crowley’s choice of words. “Well, don’t you listen to ‘er,” Aziraphale said warmly, swiping a finger towards the boy. “You listen to me.”

 

··· ♡ ···


 

Evil always contained the seeds of its own destruction, Aziraphale liked to say, in his angelic, Heavenly way.

He was never wrong.

Which was (literally) as annoying as Hell.

 

··· ♡ ···


 

“Don’t you touch those ducks!” Crowley yelped from the gardens. “Warlock, you come back here this instant!”

“But Nannyyyy,” Warlock whined, still clambering over a log, heading towards the duckpond. “Father says ducks are the best for hunting! Pew! Pew!”

Crowley began to flush with panic under his floppy black hat. He was sure the Antichrist’s powers were on the verge of manifesting, and every finger gun Warlock pointed at the quacking mallards was in danger of shooting real projectiles. Crowley was all for guns, on a conceptual level... so long as they were aimed at paper targets or genuinely dangerous people, which was a very undemonic opinion he’d expressed to no-one. He was dead against guns if they were aimed at ducks. He liked ducks.

“Warlock, you have three seconds to get back here,” Crowley yelled, trying not to lose the Scottish accent or the feminine lilt in his voice. “Or— Or ELSE!” He left the manicured gardens and entered the sheltered forest area in a precarious scurry. His inclination was to snarl and snap his fingers to forcibly teleport either the child or the ducks, but, pretending to be human, he was stuck marching over branches and shrubbery in his high-heeled boots, hand hitching his skirt to his knee. “One!”

“Nanny, look, this one has babies! Just the right size for my dinner.”

Two—!” Crowley started to run.

“Whee!” Warlock jumped into the duckpond in his smart khaki trousers, splashing algae up to his waist. He giggled, then began wading towards the ducks. The ducks quacked in an unnerved sort of way, no doubt expecting wholegrains, as both Aziraphale and Crowley enjoyed spoiling them, but this particular small human was a loose cannon, so to speak. Warlock sloshed and splunked closer and closer, water up to his chest.

“You disobedient rat! Don’t you make me come in there after you, you’ll be in big, big trouble!” Crowley shouted, the pointed tips of his satin boots on the rippling edge of the water. “More trouble than you can dare imagine!”

Warlock was too caught up in his game of duck-hunting to pay any attention.

“You’re going to drown if you don’t get back here!” Crowley called desperately, hoping Warlock knew what that meant. “You’re – oh, bugger – you’re going towards deep water now! That’s too deep for you, child!”

Warlock hurled himself at the ducklings, who hurried away across the green water, peeping in fright.

“You little bastard,” Crowley snarled to himself, showing his teeth. “Antichrist or not, I’m not having it.” He rolled up the sleeves on his blouse, straightened the red bow at his throat, then strode into the water with a murderous glint in his eyes.

Warlock surged after the ducks a few more times, chasing them in a circle around the fountain in the centre of the pond, but they were too fast for him, and by the time he’d orbited the fountain, he came face-to-face with an absolutely livid demon, who was waist-deep in water and ready to start a fire with her glare.

“Uh-oh,” Warlock said, before turning around and paddling away.

“Oh, no, you don’t,” Crowley said, taking two steps and grabbing Warlock by the back of his two-thousand-dollar bomber jacket. “There’s no getting away with this, you ruddy, insubordinate little— Yeek!”

Crowley plummeted underwater with a splash.

His boot heel had been swallowed down between mossy rocks on the pond base, his body now submerged entirely. Oh, Dark Lord, it was cold. And gross. He couldn’t open his eyes, knowing he’d only see the ugliest shade of green, and his eyeballs would sting for two days straight. He tried to loosen his heel, twisting in the soup-thick algae, but only dug it deeper. Cursed stilettos.

He felt the turbulence of the water as Warlock took his leave, swimming away while he had the chance. As furious as that made Crowley, he was also a bit proud. He was raising a right twat.

Crowley was just in the middle of a difficult two minutes, wondering whether he could chance a quick miracle to free his boot without ruining it – he liked the boots, they were snappy – or maybe popping up for some air so nobody thought he was drowning – when out of nowhere, a big, gentle hand took him under the arm and lifted his torso clean out of the water, boot somehow coming unstuck.

“Plaahagh,” Crowley said, spitting out nothing but the infernal taste of salty ducks. “Pff! Pfff! Pffff.” He swiped slime out of his eyes, sneering, squinting, then blinking a few times to see who had rescued him.

“All right, Nanny?” Brother Francis asked, looking at him with Aziraphale’s unmistakable doe-eyed concern.

“Quite all right, dear,” Nanny said sweetly, as Crowley looked embarrassed.

“I tooold Brother Francis you was in trouble,” Warlock said proudly from the bank, hands on his green-tinted hips. “I di’n’t even know he could run.”

Brother Francis looked somewhat flustered, taking off his brown hat, then replacing it. He looked at Crowley with a budding smile, then offered his hand out. Crowley took it, accepting the assistance to wade back to the edge of the pond without twisting the other ankle.

“What were you doing in the pond?” Aziraphale asked, before remembering his accent, and added, gruffly, “Oy should like to know.”

“This pigheaded miscreant started chasing after ducks,” Crowley snarled, giving Warlock a hard glare.

Warlock had the good sense to look worried, but it was only once Aziraphale and Crowley reached dry land that Crowley realised why.

“N-Nanny, what’s wrong with your eyes...? They’re all yellow...”

Crowley gasped, looking back towards the water, realising he’d lost his sunglasses.

“No worries, no worries,” Aziraphale said quickly, pulling newly-miracled sunglasses out of his sodden linen robe. “Happened to see ‘em driftin’ aroun’.”

Crowley snatched them and put them on. “Um. Um. The water... m-must’ve done something... probably...”

“They must hurt,” Aziraphale suggested. “Your eyes,” he added, when Crowley didn’t know what he meant.

“Oh yes!” Crowley clutched his eyes under his sunglasses. “Oo-oo, how they sting! I’m going blind! Terrible! I’ll never see again!”

“Nanny...” Warlock sounded like he was about to cry. “I dh... didn’t mean to get you hurt...”

Crowley peeked between his fingers. He softened, and crouched down so he could look at Warlock directly, hands on his squelchy, smelly skirt. “I know you didn’t, dear. But this is what happens, isn’t it, when we don’t do what we’re told.”

“I was being dis...oh-bee-dent.”

“Disobe-di-ent,” Crowley corrected. “Yes, you damn well were.”

“Nanny!” Brother Francis scolded. “Language.”

“Next time, dear,” Crowley leaned close, nose within inches of Warlock’s face, chin tilted down so the child could see his yellow eyes, “you’ll do. what. I. tell you. Won’t you?”

“Yes, Nanny,” Warlock said, voice shaking.

“Right. Well, then.” Crowley leaned back. He glanced up at Brother Francis, then stood tall. “I suppose, Brother Francis, you and I had better go and... change into something dry.”

“We’d better had,” Brother Francis agreed. “Cook can look after young Warlock, and find him some dry clothes.”

“Oh, no, not Cook,” Warlock whimpered. “She makes me eat my greens. And she’s the scariest person I’ve ever met.”

Crowley was quietly put-out that Warlock feared the cook more than he feared him. “Serves you right,” Crowley said, trying not to pout.

Aziraphale looked like he was about to laugh. “Come along, you two. Nanny, you’d better wring out those skirts o’ yours before settin’ foot in the house. The maid’s’ll have your head.”

“Better than the cook, apparently,” Nanny muttered, starting off towards the gardens, dripping all the way.

 

··· ♡ ···


 

“Can’t we just miracle them dry?” Aziraphale asked, wringing pond water from Brother Francis’ robe out onto the patio. He glanced around to double-check nobody would overhear, but a semi-distant roll of thunder made sure of that. “We don’t have to go inside at all, you know.”

Crowley scoffed. “You have the luxury of living in a tiny gardener’s hut, angel. They expect you to do your own laundry. Me, though? Oh-ho, no. If I don’t put a brassiere through the wash at least once a month the staff start asking me questions I really don’t want to answer.”

“Once a month?” Aziraphale’s sunburned brow wrinkled. “Once a month?”

Crowley had set off down the outdoor hallway, his boot heels clip-clopping on the flagstones. Aziraphale hurried after him, rushing past the arches that were open along the left, looking out over the well-manicured garden as the sky turned itself over.

Both of them left a slightly green drip trail in their wake.

“What are you following me for?” Crowley murmured, side-eyeing the angel. “Hop back to your garden shed before someone asks what we were doing to end up looking like this.”

Aziraphale tutted. “They already think we’re having an affair, dear, I hardly think finding out we flung ourselves fully-clothed into the duckpond would sway anybody’s opinion of us.”

Affair?!”

Brother Francis’ already-red cheeks turned redder. “You know. A man and a woman. Out of wedlock. Fraternising.”

“Ffffffraternising?!”

“Ssshhhh!” Aziraphale elbowed Crowley off the walkway and pressed him against a wooden door, forearm pinned to his padded chest. “Keep your voice down, Crowley. What’s going to blow our cover is you going all rough and growly!”

Aziraphale let Crowley go free, stood back, and cocked his head to reset as he yanked his robes straight. “Now,” Aziraphale said, pursing his lips over his buck teeth, pretending not to notice Crowley’s sudden inability to breathe steadily, “Brother Francis’ garden abode is a long walk from here, and I am getting sticky, and cold, and if you hadn’t noticed, it’s about to rain, and while I won’t demand that you allow me into your quarters, I would suggest you direct me to a place in the house where I’d have the privacy to— O-oh—”

Aziraphale was yanked right off the walkway and in through the door he’d pressed Crowley against.

“Oh, I say,” Aziraphale said, his untamed eyebrows tickling his hairline. “This is where they let you stay?”

They’d entered a black-walled room with a black-polished parquet floor, and a floor-to-ceiling window on the far side, bracketed by red velvet curtains. There was a four-poster bed on the left, with red velvet draped above, and a fluffy black rug below. On the right was a sleek luxury sofa on winged golden legs, facing a massive stone fireplace, which burst into flame as Crowley clicked his fingers, other hand busy untangling the flopsy bow at his throat.

“I made some adjustments,” Crowley said, as his boots unlaced themselves and floated off his feet.

“Of course you did,” Aziraphale uttered, as his buck teeth settled back to their regular size behind his lips. He poked his tongue at them, then started forward, asking, “Is it okay if I take my disguise off? Maintaining this form is not helping my discomfort, to say the least.”

“Do what you like, angel,” Crowley drawled, turning in an elegant twist to snap his fingers towards the door. A bolt swept across and locked down. “Nobody’s coming in.”

Aziraphale sighed in relief as his skin unburned itself, and his jowls tucked closer to his cheeks.

Meanwhile Crowley had tossed his hat on the bed along with his new sunglasses, and ran a hand back through his curled hair, destroying their perfection but leaving him looking more himself. His shoulders dropped, and he stood poised before the wide, grey-clouded window, hands taking either curtain.

Crowley did look a pretty picture from over here, Aziraphale thought, while he pulled off his dirty gardening hat. He’d seen pinup girls in the forties with silhouettes only half as dramatic as that.

“Big storm’s rolling in,” Crowley said, eyeing the dark clouds that piled up over the grounds. “How worryingly foreboding.”

“It’ll be any day now, I’m sure of it,” Aziraphale agreed. “Warlock will start bending the world to his will.”

Crowley nodded. He was right to worry about the ducks. They were clearly first on Warlock’s hit list.

“Crowley,” Aziraphale called, “would you mind pulling the curtain? I’d like to clean myself up, and someone might see in... A miracle would be a hard thing to explain.”

Crowley turned his head to look back. “Don’t miracle your robe dry, angel. Take it off and put it in the laundry. I tell you, those nosy maids. Forever asking questions about my lingerie. We’ll all be better off giving them more work.”

“Oh, if I must,” Aziraphale said, starting to ruck up the hem of his robe as Crowley drew the curtains closed. Unexpectedly, the room became small and warm and intimate without the window’s glare; only the fireplace crackled, touching everything with a soft, flickering bronze.

Aziraphale inhaled as he stretched up, exhaling as the stinking wet robe came free of his face, and he looked around for somewhere to put it.

“Floor,” Crowley said, tossing his ribbon bow down, then starting on his blouse buttons.

Robe floored with a damp flup, Aziraphale then looked down at his short-legged, sleeveless union suit, unsure whether he was ready to undress completely in front of Crowley.

Crowley’s eyes lingered on Aziraphale’s exposed shoulders, then swept away; he turned his back, working his own bony shoulders back and forth as he divested himself of his black blouse.

Aziraphale watched his friend’s back curiously, lips parting as he saw each ridge of Crowley’s spine shift in the firelight. The back-strap of a brassiere fit snugly to his skin, each shoulder-strap newly asunder from its usual position, where a faint red line had been left behind, denting his skin.

“Are... you looking at me?” Crowley asked, pausing, head turned in profile. Aziraphale could just see the line of his mascaraed lashes, lit with a lick of gold from the flames.

“No,” Aziraphale whispered, as their eyes met.

Crowley tried not to smile, but did anyway. He faced Aziraphale and hid nothing as he looked down at Aziraphale’s throat, then his clavicle, then the loose U-neck of his white union suit. His gaze followed the line of buttons down, meeting with a muddy green waterline that matched his own, underwear clinging to their waists.

Aziraphale fingered the topmost button on his own clothing, not sure, not sure.

Crowley lowered his gaze again, then his head, and turned away. His hands crooked behind his back to unhook his bra, only for his fingers to tangle, jerking on the clips doing nothing at all.

“Ah— Let me,” Aziraphale offered, stepping close, but his hands hesitated. Should he?

“Can’t abide these things,” Crowley uttered as his hands relaxed and fell to his sides, which Aziraphale took as permission to touch. “If I’m forced to send one through the wash I can’t just imagine it into existence – had to go out and buy the damn thing, and that... was a complicated day.”

“I’m sorry to hear it,” Aziraphale said, while flipping the bra strap back and forth, baffled as to how it fit together. “How does this work?”

“Pull the sides together, angel.”

Aziraphale did, and exclaimed, “Oh!” in triumph as the bra seemed to fall apart around Crowley’s slender torso.

Crowley moaned and rolled his head back, deeply relieved. He slid off the bra entirely and cast it to the floor where it no doubt belonged. “Bullet bras! Now those I could get behind. Take someone’s eye out. Conceal a deadly weapon. Spare pockets. None of this round, padded form-fitting rubbish. What form is it meant to fit to?” He showed Aziraphale his bare chest, gesturing to his very flat front.

Aziraphale blushed, one hand on his cheek. “Crowley...”

“Oh, grow up, it’s just a body,” Crowley chided. “You’ve got one just the same.”

“Y-Yes, well... mine’s... not exactly the same.”

“It isn’t?” Crowley looked surprised, lips rounding. His snake eyes dipped to Aziraphale’s crotch and back up.

Aziraphale crossed one thigh over himself in embarrassment. “It’s a bit softer, that’s all!”

“Oh,” Crowley smiled warmly, wavering in place a little. “Well then.”

Aziraphale huffed, smiling despite himself. He glanced away, then back, and tutted, “Turn around, would you?”

Crowley was grinning as he turned.

Aziraphale sighed, eyes rising to the shadow-licked ceiling, then lowering to his union suit. Fingers poised, he began to unbutton.

Crowley started taking off his skirt. Aziraphale tried not to look... but... Crowley didn’t seem to mind if he looked...

Crowley had on some very delicate undergarments, which made Aziraphale smile. Something black and lacy covered his buttocks, and clipped to those were thin suspenders, holding up that fine-denier hosiery that Crowley had sent Aziraphale out to buy twelve of in their first week of arrival at the Dowling mansion.

Off came the suspenders, and the stockings dropped to the demon’s ankles with a damp whisper of leg hair. Crowley kicked them off, and then hooked his thumbs into the waistband of his briefs and—

“Oh, good Lord, Crowley!” Aziraphale turned away violently. “Naked? Really?”

“I thought that’s what we were doing?!”

“But I was looking!”

“Yooou said you weren’t,” Crowley purred, teasingly, because of course he knew.

Aziraphale’s face was as hot as the fire. “Hmm,” he complained, pained.

“They’re sopping wet, in any case,” Crowley said. Aziraphale heard the slip of fabric as they came off.

Aziraphale let out a slow, calming breath. He hesitated, twice, but then parted the front of his union suit, facing the fire. His heart was pumping too hard, hoping Crowley had the common decency not to peek at Aziraphale’s bare bottom.

“Here,” Crowley said, with a snap of his fingers.

“Hm?” Aziraphale glanced over his shoulder, drawing a small breath in surprise as he saw Crowley offering him a fresh set of undergarments – a white union suit almost identical to the one he’d just taken off. Crowley had his free hand covering his eyes, fingers tight together. “Oh,” Aziraphale said. “Thank you.” He took the gift.

He heard the click of Crowley’s fingers again, which was presumably the sound of Crowley magicking himself clean of pondwater. Aziraphale did the same, then stepped into his new underwear, sighing in relief as warm, clean fabric snuffled up his legs. He thumbed the wide cotton shoulder straps up over his arms, then enclosed the flaps upon his chest. He relaxed more and more as he did up his buttons. Once the top button was done, he smiled, looking into the fire.

He paced close, standing in the glorious heat of the flames, hands on his tummy, enjoying the way the light cast halos in the backs of his eyes.

He glanced up when Crowley came to his side.

Soft surprise took hold of Aziraphale when he saw that Crowley had not donned a union suit – not even one in black – nor another brassiere, but, besides the new briefs, had instead conjured up something obviously unnecessary: it was see-through and too delicate to even know the meaning of modesty. It hung from his shoulders with black snake-like cords, and slunk past his torso and down past his waist, all the way to his bare feet, its translucent material shifting gently in the waves of heat from the fire. Useless. But it was pretty, though. And Aziraphale even said so.

Crowley lifted his eyes to meet Aziraphale’s. Though their pigment might’ve become lost in the yellow light, his yellow eyes were only enhanced by the firelight. His gaze was intent, curious, and unapologetically soft. “Thanksss,” Crowley said gently, gaze dipping to Aziraphale’s lips.

Aziraphale wet his lips, then hurriedly bowed his head. “It’s nice in here, isn’t it? Nice and warm.”

“...Mm-hm.”

Aziraphale gulped. His eyes darted to the door, which was still locked.

“No-one’s coming in, angel,” Crowley assured him, noticing his doubt. “Nobody’ll see us like this, I promise.”

It made Aziraphale’s heart flutter to hear that. The privacy was welcome, of course, but Crowley skirted around what was unspoken: they just wanted to enjoy each other here. That was all. This was intimate and they both liked it. The pondwater had been a genuine concern, but whether Crowley’s tale of a war with the laundry maids had any truth to it, Aziraphale couldn’t say. But he let himself believe it, if it allowed him to stay this way for a little longer. Looking at Crowley. Having Crowley look at him.

For six thousand years, they’d tried so hard not to look.

Aziraphale had found himself looking an awful lot, in the last few decades. He wasn’t sure if Crowley had always been beautiful and he hadn’t noticed properly, or whether the demon had actually gotten more attractive, somehow. Aziraphale wouldn’t have put it past him.

He was just so terribly pretty. Aziraphale thought his hair looked unbelievably soft as his red locks fell effortlessly about his shoulders, and his lips were perfect even without Nanny Ashtoreth’s lipstick, and the way he craned towards the fire like he craved not the destruction of flame, but the life that came with warmth, was all enough in combination to make Aziraphale’s insides tingle without pause.

Crowley’s eyes flicked to Aziraphale’s. “D... Do you want...?”

Aziraphale’s heart skipped a beat. “Want what?”

Crowley half-shrugged, head dipping in shyness. “Get properly naked?”

Aziraphale knew instantly that Crowley didn’t mean they should take their underwear off. “Oh,” he said, lightly.

“Yes?” Crowley searched for a response in Aziraphale’s eyes.

Aziraphale again looked to the door, then the window, then into the fire. He frowned for a moment, wondering how much trouble he’d be in if another angel caught him like this, toying with the enemy, allowing himself to be this vulnerable in his presence.

And yet the urge was there, and had always been there. They’d hidden their wings for so long, and it was ever so rare to find a moment to relax. Aziraphale only occasionally stretched them out when he was alone.

He and Crowley had shown each other their wings a handful of times in the passing millennia – the excuses being that they were drunk (and curious to see if they could find their wings in the ether), that they were the only people around for a hundred miles and nobody would see, or that unless they found a moment to be themselves, they’d go mad, trapped in their tiny human shapes for far too long.

It should have been a bad thing that Aziraphale was most comfortable sharing the details of both his corporeal form and true form with one person and one person alone. And that person was a demon.

But there it was. Crowley had asked. And there was never a moment either of them didn’t want to feel free, just for a while, and forget that they weren’t, and never could be truly free.

Aziraphale nodded, then nodded again, catching Crowley’s eyes.

Crowley smiled lopsidedly, and it became a grin as there, behind him, unfurled the great beasts that were his wings. Black as night and slick with the oils of galaxies, they gleamed in the firelight, billowing out wide and tall and stretching long across the room, door to window, primary feathers brushing the ceiling.

“Auhhh,” Crowley groaned, tipping his head back. “Oh, it’s like taking my bra off a hundred times in a row. Ohh. Ohhhh, yeah.” He rolled his shoulders high and low, head lolling, mouth open, eyes half-hooded. “Hmmm.”

Aziraphale hated himself for feeling second-hand pleasure. He’d never understood the draw to pornography, but seeing Crowley express such deep relief certainly offered a physical response that Aziraphale wouldn’t be unhappy to experience again. At least in private.

Alas, the happy pang was there and gone again in a swoop, and quickly became insecurity, as Crowley looked at him with expectant eyes.

Aziraphale hadn’t spread his wings in many years. He hadn’t even brought them into being for the purposes of grooming, because he knew he harboured enough vanity focusing on his human form alone, and extending that to his wings would certainly be overkill. He had no idea what state they would be in. Drifting around in a void never suited them well.

“I won’t look, if that’s what you’re worried about,” Crowley smiled. He slowly moved a hand towards his face, as if ready to cover his eyes.

“Ah... no... it’s fine,” Aziraphale said bravely. “Just... working up to it.”

“Take your time,” Crowley smirked. His eyes lingered on Aziraphale’s back, blinking slow, almost one eyelid at a time.

Aziraphale could tell Crowley was looking forward to it. He wanted to look. He’d always wanted to look. Despite the guilt and shyness it caused, Aziraphale liked being looked at. He found it flattering. It made him feel... oh... attractive. Nobody else looked at him the way Crowley did, and he wouldn’t want it any other way.

After some deep breaths, Aziraphale swallowed, and started to undress his wings. He felt their weight first, gorging on the space they now had available, and with a drop of pleasure, Aziraphale felt them spread wide and huge and he cried out helplessly, a weak and tender sound mewling from the deepest part of his throat.

He slowly opened his eyes, sighing. He looked back, and—

“Oh dear.”

Crowley’s face had stuck blank, pretending very hard that he didn’t notice the absolute wreck Aziraphale’s wings had become.

They were dirty like a mechanic’s overalls, ruffled up all over like a tomcat limping from a fight, and duller and greyer than an unwashed chalkboard.

Aziraphale tucked his hands under his armpits, looking into the fire and trying to act like his face was pink and hot because of the flames, and not overwhelming shame.

“Feel better, at least?” Crowley asked.

Aziraphale nodded. “Oh, much,” he confessed with a smile and a sigh. “If this is what taking a brassiere off is like, I might just try it someday.”

Crowley seemed amused by that.

Aziraphale spared him a fast glance. “They don’t always look like this, you know.”

“I know, angel,” Crowley said assuringly, offering a kind smile. “I remember the first monsoon seasons. White as anything.”

“Well, they got a lot of washes back then, it’s true,” Aziraphale said brightly, glad he could find a smile that didn’t feel forced. He kept looking at Crowley. “I— Look, Crowley, the thing is, I’m—” He fretted. “Oh, you know what, this really won’t do.”

He glanced back and snapped his fingers, and his wings lightened up a shade, and space grime evaporated into the air in glittering particles.

He snorted in annoyed contentment. “There. Better.”

Crowley gave the wings a discerning look. “Hm.”

Aziraphale stared back. “What’s that supposed to mean? ‘Hm’?”

Crowley pressed his lower lip up in a careless arch. “Nothing.”

“That wasn’t nothing, that was a ‘hm’. You’re judging me for something.”

“I’m not judging you.”

“You are, and I can tell, and you’d better tell me what your problem is right now, Crowley, or I will—”

“You’ll what,” Crowley crooned, happy to bait.

Aziraphale huffed. “Or I’ll put my wings away again.”

Crowley raised his eyebrows. Again, what went unsaid was the bare truth: Crowley liked seeing Aziraphale vulnerable and almost naked, and they both knew it implicitly.

Crowley swallowed, and his eyes slipped towards the fire.

“Your wings are a messsss, angel,” Crowley said quietly. “Such a mess. It’s just – it’s unbearable! Poor things.”

“They’re not that much of a mess. I just cleaned them.”

“Clean, yes,” Crowley said. “But—” He examined Aziraphale’s ruffled appendages. “Feathers poking up every-which-way. All out of alignment. Split seams. Down fluff falling out. I don’t mean it as an insult, angel, but you asked, and – and hmmm! That’s what.”

“Don’t you ‘hmm’ at me,” Aziraphale argued. “Either fix it or mind your own business, I’m not having you judge me.”

“Told you, angel, I’m not judging you.” Crowley took a step closer and placed a palm on Aziraphale’s wing, sparking a full-body shock that Aziraphale hid under a thankfully silent gasp. “Just trying my best not to tear my hands through this mess and straighten it all out.”

“Well?” Aziraphale urged, pretending to be annoyed. “Do it, or don’t do it, makes no difference to me, does it?”

Crowley met his eyes. His lower lip bobbed. “What?”

“Do you want to groom me, or don’t you? It’s a simple enough question.”

Crowley’s eyes jumped between Aziraphale’s – left-right, right-left, fast and uncertain. “Y... You want me to... groom you?”

Aziraphale gulped. “Ih— If you want to, that is,” he replied, too softly. “I’d allow it.”

Crowley’s face relaxed in awe.

After several beats, he admitted, “I... I’ve never... groomed anyone else, I haven’t... even...”

“Me neither,” Aziraphale whispered. “Had someone groom me, I mean. Or— Or the other way around, either, I—”

They held each other’s gaze for a while, hearts thumping. Crowley’s hand was still on Aziraphale’s wing.

“Are you sure?” Crowley asked, a slight tremble in his voice.

Aziraphale’s eyes lowered to Crowley’s lips. If it was going to be anyone, he wanted it to be him. It had to be him. Aziraphale nodded.

Crowley’s sideways smile was like a daisy field full of happy bees in the wavering heat of summer. Even the growing brawl of thunder outside and the whip of rain against the window pane couldn’t draw Aziraphale from the warmth he saw in Crowley’s eyes.

Crowley’s gaze fell to Aziraphale’s lips, and Crowley’s own lips parted...

For a moment – one searing hot, unguarded moment – Aziraphale thought he was about to be kissed. But he exhaled, getting his bearings, because Crowley had eased away, knowing it was too soon.

Aziraphale knew he loved Crowley. He hadn’t been certain for a long time, but for over seventy years now, he’d known. He felt that love, now, as acutely as he felt the rumble of thunder under his bare feet, as intensely as he’d felt the first drumfire of the sky on the day Eden ceased to be home. He’d felt the crack of night and the universe howling, once, long ago, and once more, in the rubble of a fallen church. He felt the same now. He felt it in every atom of his physical form, body alight with senses he was still learning to understand.

Crowley held the angel’s bare shoulder with his left hand, his right fingers spread like the teeth of a comb, drawing southward through untamed feathers, parting the big ones and tugging on the down underneath.

Aziraphale knew Crowley’s eyes were not on the feathers, but on him.

Crowley waited for that shiver of breath, the flicker of pleasure on Aziraphale’s brow, the parting lips. Aziraphale couldn’t help showing those signs, as they were inevitable. It felt good. Simple as that. It felt good to be touched like that, by him.

“Crowley,” Aziraphale whispered, eyes rising, on the verge of tears.

“You’re safe, angel,” Crowley breathed back. “I won’t hurt you.”

“I know,” Aziraphale said, turning to face him. He blinked twice, resisting the urge to cup Crowley’s cheek and kiss him softly. “I know I am. I always have been.” He smiled. A breath: “I know.”

Crowley pressed fingertips to Aziraphale’s chest, thumb teasing the low, stitched neckline of his union suit. “Come on, get comfortable, angel. Wings are big. This is gonna take a while.”

Aziraphale took the hand Crowley offered, and let himself be led to the sofa, where he sat by Crowley’s guidance, eyes tracking Crowley when he sat close beside him, carefully taking the left wing and sweeping it to graze his lap, feathers across bare thighs.

“They are exquisite, to be fair,” Crowley said quietly, as he began to stroke the wing like a cat, fingers separating each plume with a shwipp, the sound coming fourfold with each movement. “A mess, yeah. But, mm, pretty good wings.”

“Oh, yes?”

Crowley cast a sly eye to Aziraphale, sharing a smile. “Yeah.”

Aziraphale wondered how Crowley fared, giving compliments. Surely it was a bad thing for a demon to be kind, or sentimental, or as astonishingly gentle as he was being now.

Some minutes passed.

Slow.

Safe.

Quiet.

Minutes.

“Crowley...?” Aziraphale started, now resting back with his head on the gold rim of the high-backed sofa, his eyes on Crowley, never leaving him. “How do you justify this? What do you tell yourself to make this even remotely okay?”

Crowley stopped combing for a moment, looking at Aziraphale closely. “Make what okay?”

“You know what,” Aziraphale said pleadingly. “You. Me.” He swallowed. “Doing this. Doing this for six thousand years.”

His breath shuddered over his tongue after he spoke, as Crowley’s fingers brushed a sensitive knot of muscle and then began their quest again.

Crowley stared into the fire for a while. “I don’t,” he admitted, finally.

Aziraphale looked at him.

Crowley shrugged, not looking back. “I don’t let myself think about it.”

“Neither do I,” Aziraphale lied. Some days he did nothing but think about it.

He shut his eyes for a few more minutes, sighing in bliss as Crowley dug into his secondary feathers, leaving a warm layer of loose down on their laps, all the white fluff drifting eventually to the floor.

“Crowley...” Aziraphale’s brow tensed, a smile flashing onto his lips. “Oh...”

“What?” Crowley asked. “What is it, angel?”

“Oh... no... it just... feels nice.” Aziraphale slumped towards the arm of the sofa, resting his cheek on the back of his left hand, facing the fire. “Hmmm.”

Crowley was smiling, Aziraphale could hear it in his breath.

From this angle, Crowley could reach Aziraphale’s right wing too. It was an awkward angle, but they managed.

Stroking.

Stroking slow.

Outside, the storm built to a solid thrum, alive with a bassline and whistling a tune through a gap in the window, splattered rain smacking the window like a snare. Here, inside, in the stifling heat of the fire and each other’s touches, they made a very different kind of music: silence. A silence that hummed in every corner of the body and rose upon choral waves in the mind, gasping, gasping without a sound. Every smile was kept a secret even though they both knew what the other was hiding. Yet the silence remained magnificent.

Aziraphale wondered how many times Crowley resisted leaning down to kiss him.

Aziraphale imagined it a hundred times, at least. He thought about kisses on his neck, the backs of his hands, his ear, his forehead, his shoulder, his arm, his wrist, his wings, and every imagining struck him with a static thrill, coursing to the soles of his feet and prickling his scalp, interrupting his breath. Maybe Crowley thought all the hitches in Aziraphale’s breath were due to what he did with careful hands, pulling at bad feathers and preening the good ones... and, in truth, they were. Obviously they were. Aziraphale was lost to him in this moment and he didn’t have the willpower to pretend otherwise.

“Auh...” Aziraphale shut his eyes and rolled onto his back, one leg dangling off the sofa, heel on the floor. Crowley hesitated, so Aziraphale murmured, “No, Crowley, don’t stop...”

Crowley moved to kneel closer, one knee nudged up between Aziraphale’s open legs, torso leaning over Aziraphale’s, both slim hands buried in both wings, eyes hooded as he looked down into Aziraphale’s eyes. Crowley’s lips were plumped and licked wet.

“Aziraphale...”

It was destructive, the way he said the angel’s name. Aziraphale felt himself come apart a little more each time.

They were starting to tremble. Those hands, those wings, their breath.

Crowley’s gaze snatched glimpses of Aziraphale’s lips, but he seemed afraid to linger, just as Aziraphale was afraid to let him. They knew what would happen if they indulged. They couldn’t.

They couldn’t.

Don’t.

Aziraphale’s hand shifted towards Crowley’s left wing, the one shielding the heat of the fire from his thighs. Crowley saw him reach, and made the connection, giving Aziraphale his wing.

And then Crowley gasped, back arching – he resisted making a sound for two, three seconds, but then he moaned, deeply, shaking, hands going weak between Aziraphale’s feathers. His torso sagged a few inches, his muscles softening, heart urging just a bit closer to Aziraphale’s.

Aziraphale took Crowley’s other wing too, and now the two of them grasped each other, holding on, digging in, scratching itches too slowly to call it friendly.

“Aziraphaaaale,” Crowley groaned again, eyes unfocused, dizzy, wandering his friend’s dewy complexion and fluttering lashes. “Ahh-h... ziraaa...”

Trembling.

Trembling.

Breath shuddered over Aziraphale’s lips, as he felt things he couldn’t control. He liked it too much, he knew that. He could twist his fingers and cause Crowley pleasure – true physical pleasure, enough to make his eyelashes bat and his body surge, air swept from his open lips as he begged wordlessly for more.

“Please,” Crowley whispered, a desperation in his face like he wanted to cry, but wouldn’t let himself. “Angel, please, don’t do this to me, I...”

Their eyes locked.

Crowley was about to weep.

Aziraphale just wanted to kiss him. He moved a hand to cradle Crowley’s jaw.

With a desperate gasp, Crowley shut his eyes and fell close, wanting—

But he stopped short. They sighed against each other, a tender vocalisation fleeing each of them in turn – mouths open, eyes shut, hands moving from wings to hair. Aziraphale sank his fingers into those beautiful locks and was gratified to find they were every bit as soft as they looked. Crowley let out a strangled keen against his lips without touching, desperation ablaze in every tense muscle, the way he’d frozen against Aziraphale’s front – but he stayed soft, he stayed malleable enough that Aziraphale could turn his head, pretending, imagining he was kissing him. Another whimper flew from them both, hot breaths on wet lips, each shaking from the heart outwards.

Don’t kiss him. Don’t kiss him.

Crowley’s breaths came out slow, one at a time, his taste one of sweet smoke but toxic as quicksilver. He burned on the tongue, his dark lashes fluttering on his high cheekbones as he hovered there, millimetres from a kiss he’d wanted for six thousand years.

He was practically owed it by now.

But he took nothing, and Aziraphale took nothing in return.

Yet they held each other, noses soon pressing to cheeks, nudging, turning, wanting and wanting and wanting but being too afraid to take, too sure it was too soon to have it, but not too soon to know, to know each other this way, know that what they were feeling was real and mutual and it hurt, it really hurt, and Aziraphale wanted to beg for it the way Crowley had, but his only cry was a near-silent rasp of Crowley’s name.

Don’t do it. Don’t. You can’t kiss him.

Aziraphale’s hand descended from curls to the nape of Crowley’s neck, to the open back of his lingerie, following down the curve of his spine. Crowley eased into the touch, humming in delight as his wings surged wide, stretching against Aziraphale’s, crooked over the back of the sofa and stretched towards the fire. They let their appendages brush, and rock together, fluttering in slow motion – playing, almost.

Crowley even tipped down his chin, breaking their almost-kiss just to grin. He kept his eyes shut, maybe imagining that things were different here and now, pretending they weren’t enemies, weren’t too afraid to take something they both craved.

Crowley soon drew in a breath, and lifted his torso away. His wings went with him.

Their eyes met for the first time since they’d leaned in.

Aziraphale had expected the world to look different now. But nothing had changed between those blinks.

They’d been in love for so long that wanting and having were almost the same thing. They hadn’t kissed but they’d come close enough for it to count.

Crowley looked sad but satisfied.

Aziraphale felt... content. Crowley would wait. He’d wait and say nothing the way he always had, and someday – someday – they might be safe. Truly safe. Apart from Heaven and Hell, alone only with each other.

Crowley sat back, taking a breath, running a hand down his face to reset. He sniffed, then looked at Aziraphale calmly. “Wings look better.”

“Hm.” Aziraphale needed a few more moments to align his mind. He stayed lying down, shutting his eyes for a bit, palms over them. He listened to the snap of the fire burning an everlasting log, and the haunted cries of the window in the storm. He listened to Crowley swallow, and release a shivering, throat-relaxing breath.

When Aziraphale peeked out, Crowley sat on the sofa right by his feet, looking into his eyes.

Aziraphale sat up on his elbows. “Oh yes,” he replied, as if there hadn’t been five minutes between Crowley’s remark and now. He flexed a wing, impressed. “They do look a bit spiffier, don’t they?”

Crowley smiled. It was a fond smile.

Aziraphale nudged Crowley’s thigh with a bare foot. “You and I had better get dressed, Crowley. Warlock was very naughty today but I don’t think he deserves to be left with Cook for too long.”

“Mm.” Crowley’s response was a bit distant. He kept gazing at Aziraphale as Aziraphale got up, ready to transform back into Brother Francis. Just as those fingers were preparing to click, a hand grasped Aziraphale’s empty one, holding it.

“Angel, wait.”

Aziraphale looked at Crowley, fingers still poised.

“Two more minutes,” Crowley said quietly. He swallowed, eyes gleaming with firelight and longing. “And we’ll forget it ever happened.”

“Forget... what...?”

Crowley stood, took Aziraphale’s other hand, and guided him back to the sofa. They sat side-by-side, knees touching, the thigh-length hem of Aziraphale’s underwear rucked up by Crowley’s sleek drapery.

They gazed into each others eyes, Aziraphale waiting for something to happen, Crowley hesitating.

After a number of seconds, Crowley inched closer.

For the five-hundredth time this evening, Aziraphale expected to be kissed. He flushed with desire, wondering if he might actually be ready now. He hoped he was. He wanted to be.

But Crowley didn’t kiss him.

He hugged him.

“Oh...” Aziraphale started to smile, and smiled brightly, pressing his cheek to Crowley’s hair.

Crowley snuck half a foot closer along the sofa, which pushed him halfway into the space Aziraphale had been sitting, so now they were flush from neck to knee, Crowley’s chin hooked over Aziraphale’s shoulder, palms pressed into Aziraphale’s back.

Aziraphale embraced in return, finding it all too easy to sink into the affection, as it was new but completely welcome. He realised he’d shut his eyes, and was smiling without paying attention.

Crowley rocked them side-to-side a little. Drew a deep breath.

Breathed out.

Aziraphale breathed out too, and lay back, taking Crowley with him.

They held each other for a while. Resting. Eyes shut. Breaths slow.

After a handful of minutes, Aziraphale turned his head and nosed into Crowley’s cheek. Almost-kiss.

Then a real kiss.

He felt the faintest prick of stubble, as Crowley hadn’t shaved since the morning. Crowley felt Aziraphale’s smile.

Two more minutes passed.

Then another... six, perhaps.

After then, they stopped thinking about how long it would be until they got up, because they didn’t.

They fell asleep in each other’s arms, legs entwined, noses touching.

The storm boomed around them, and in their obvious absence, rumours carried among the staff and the Dowling family like leaves on the wind, or ducks on a pond – but, far away from all that, the fire stayed lit, their wings stayed unfurled, and they stayed asleep until the morning.

 

··· ♡ ···


 

Brother Francis left Nanny Ashtoreth’s room quarter of an hour before dawn.

He stole one look back, smiled at the elegant form lying alone on the sofa, blanketed by wings... then turned away, and shut the door behind him.

 

··· ♡ ···


 

To say an act so desperately yearned for could be forgotten overnight... well, it was obviously a lie. Crowley never forgot. He had no intention of forgetting.

Aziraphale pretended he forgot about that night, but whenever they spoke of their wings, Crowley saw the tiny smile that proved he hadn’t.

In the years that followed, all they could do was remember.

 

··· ♡ ···


 

Aziraphale placed a palm on Crowley’s back.

“Hm?” Crowley, toothbrush in mouth, turned one way, then the other, trying to see what Aziraphale was up to. “Wha’ss going on?”

“When was the last time?” Aziraphale asked, doing up the top button of his pyjamas, one-handed.

“Las’ pime whop.”

“You were properly naked.”

Crowley spat out toothpaste, rinsed his mouth, then turned, yellow eyes and messy bedtime hair making an adorable combination. A hint of colour touched his cheeks.

Aziraphale surmised the answer, and smiled, eyes lowered. “Hm. Me too.”

“I mean,” Crowley tilted his head. “There was the time with Adam the Antichrist in the middle of an empty white void. But I had clothes on then. Didn’t count.”

Aziraphale pouted teasingly. He traced a finger along Crowley’s stubbled jaw.

“We could—” Crowley took each of Aziraphale’s elbows, stroking. “If you wanted...?”

Aziraphale smiled. “Alright.”

“Tonight?” Crowley asked.

Aziraphale nodded.

“All night?”

Aziraphale nodded again. He took a small breath, and leaned in, pressing a kiss against Crowley’s minty-fresh lips.

It was only when they were tucked close with Crowley’s back pressing the sink, their heads tilted, breathing out against each other as their mouths twisted against each other that Aziraphale realised with a jolt—

“Crowley!” He gasped and stepped back, fingers to his lips.

Crowley touched his own mouth, equally astounded.

They stared.

After the shock dimmed, Aziraphale shuddered, getting his bearings. “Well,” he said, blinking twice as he insinuated himself back into Crowley’s personal space. “I dare say I was more than ready. Barely even felt like a first kiss.”

“Dare say,” Crowley smirked. He kept gazing, and gazing, closer and closer until he rested his forehead on Aziraphale’s. “Picked up where we left off, I suppose.”

“Only took me six years, can you believe?! Six!” Aziraphale was amazed with himself.

Crowley threw back his head and laughed.

Aziraphale chuckled, kissing Crowley’s cheek. He sighed, happy. “Come on.” He took Crowley’s hand and tugged him, heading across the hall for their bedroom. “We’ll light the fire, get undressed, and then, my dear...? Then!”

“I think my wings might be a bit of a mess, angel,” Crowley said enticingly. “Haven’t groomed them in, oh... six years. Apocalypse kind of roughed them up.”

“Oh, really?” Aziraphale was enticed. “I’ll have to see what I can do about that, then, won’t I?” He paused before they reached the bedroom, eyes turned to Crowley’s. “You were saving them for me, weren’t you? Purposefully not grooming so I’d... have something to sink my hands into?”

“Where on Earth would you get that idea,” Crowley said, which meant yes.

Aziraphale smiled. He leaned in for a quick kiss, then led Crowley into their safe and private den, eyes and hands never straying from each other’s.

{ the end }