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and Pablo Neruda, too

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Ⅰ.

When your hands go out,
love, toward mine,
what do they bring me flying?
Why did they stop
at my mouth, suddenly,
why do I recognize them
as if then, before,
I had touched them,
as if before they existed
they had passed over
my forehead, my waist?


Aziraphale had touched Crowley many times, for many reasons. It was mostly in reserved pats and reluctant handshakes that varied with the culture of the time and place. There was nothing special about their interactions in the first centuries of their acquaintance, which were polite (and sometimes just barely civil), but nothing more. Crowley couldn’t pinpoint the moment when he realized that Aziraphale’s touch had become friendly. He only knew that suddenly he welcomed the angel’s hands, and that he had perhaps always welcomed them.

Whenever Aziraphale raised a gentle hand to touch him, Crowley remembered what home felt like. Not that he’d ever had a home to remember. Neither heaven nor hell fell into that description. But in those rare, fleeting moments, Aziraphale’s steady hands offered him all the love that heaven had failed to provide. And Crowley felt as though these hands had always held him, as though he had always known them.

 

Ⅱ.

Their softness came
flying over time,
over the sea, over the smoke,
over the spring,
and when you placed
your hands on my chest,
I recognized those golden
dove wings,
I recognized that clay
and that colour of wheat.


They’d both been discorporated rather too many times over the years. More than once Aziraphale had come back in an entirely different corporation. Sometimes Crowley wouldn’t even recognize him. But just when Crowley was thinking it had been a suspiciously long time since he’d seen the angel, a stranger would approach him and put an intimately familiar hand on his chest.

Sometimes it was an aging man. Or a middle-aged woman. Or occasionally, a young non-binary person. It didn’t matter. They all felt like Aziraphale. Each time, as soon as Crowley felt the tenderness of Aziraphale’s hands, he knew. He knew, as though Aziraphale had appeared with golden light in his hair and feathered wings on his back.

 

Ⅲ.

All the years of my life
I walked around looking for them.
I went up the stairs,
I crossed the roads,
trains carried me,
waters brought me,
and in the skin of the grapes
I thought I touched you.
The word suddenly
brought me your touch,
the almond announced to me
your secret softness,
until your hands
closed on my chest
and there like two wings
they ended their journey.


It had always been about Aziraphale’s touch; this was a belated realization. Crowley began to crave the familiarity of it in the decades they went without seeing each other. Instinctively, unconsciously, he began to look for the angel wherever he went. He looked for Aziraphale’s hands in the greetings of humans, in the smooth skin of fruit, in the softness of pillows. He looked for Aziraphale where he knew he wouldn’t find him, in the bottom of a glass, in the stars, in his sleep.

Then one day he was in a park, tying fake apples to the low branches of a walnut tree, and suddenly Aziraphale’s hand was on his shoulder. “I missed you, my dear,” said Aziraphale. And then he was holding Crowley’s face in his hands, fingers lightly brushing his lips. And Crowley knew. Crowley grabbed those unbearably soft fingers, kissed them, held them to his chest.

Aziraphale held his gaze fondly. He kissed him, soft and feather-light. Then he wrapped his arms and wings around Crowley, and Crowley was home.