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You’ve read this story before.

It’s twilight on the South Downs. The demon walks alone along the strand, footsteps crunching. He rakes a hand through wind-roughened locks, grown out a little shaggy after six months with no one in particular to see him. No one except the only one who matters. He treads on a stone, stoops to pick it up, hurls it not terribly effectively into the waves. Watches the sun sink, another day of an eternity he thought they’d lost, an eternity they won back for themselves and, maybe, for each other. Crowley waits for the stars to come out. He waits.

The angel sits at his rolltop desk, moved at great inconvenience to the cottage, now snugly against the wall in the study. In the fading light from the window the pages of his book are hard to make out, and he has been turning pages unseeing for more than half an hour. He blinks, takes a sip of cooling tea. Looks about him at the shadows gathering in the room, huffs a sigh. Nighttime is harder than daytime, and nights are long now. Aziraphale worries his lip between his teeth. He worries.

Aziraphale does not sleep, and he is grateful that Crowley does, when he pads off to the bedroom and closes the door. But then Aziraphale must imagine him there, swathed in black silk between grey flannel sheets, warm and pliant. Trusting Aziraphale to remain on the other side of the door, trusting him not to put his palm against it, his head against it, trying to feel Crowley through it, trying to hear him moving in his sleep. Trusting Aziraphale not to crack the door open and watch.

Aziraphale looks out the window, regards the dark lanky shape kissed with the last rays of the setting sun. At this distance, he can just make out the golden glow crowning Crowley’s head, highlights at his shoulder and along his arm as he pitches a shell or a stone into the water, then shoves his hands into his pockets. Elbows poking up at the back like wings. Head tipped back, looking for the first points of light to shift the sky from day to night. He looks at his ease, content.

Perhaps this isn’t the story you thought it was.

The chair scrawks as Aziraphale pushes it back and stands. Crowley may remain on the beach a while, stargazing, but he is most likely to come back to the cottage and inquire about dinner. Not for himself. He will ask if Aziraphale would like to go into the village, to have dinner at the French bistro there or the gastropub. Crowley will eat a little, if Aziraphale agrees, but he knows it’s only to be companionable. Crowley lives on full-bodied red wine and scotch and coffee and air and starlight. Sleep. Long, terrifying drives along precipitous cliffside highways with his phone blasting popular music through the sound system. The cottage’s excellent wifi signal, and all the Twitter and gossip rags and reality television and prestige dramas he can suck through it. These are, apparently, all Crowley needs to be happy.

He has planted a winter garden: heather and hellebore, daphne and crocus, snowdrops that are just beginning to bloom. Every day, he is out there tending them, nourishing the shoots with fish fertilizer and coffee grounds and verbal abuse. You don’t plant a garden, Aziraphale reasons, you don’t take such exquisite care of it, if you don’t plan to see it bloom, if you don’t expect to be here when it flourishes. He takes what comfort he can in these thoughts. Crowley is not leaving. Is not leaving him.

Crowley’s familiar tread crackles on the gravel path and Aziraphale clenches his hands into fists as his stomach dips. The sensation is no less dreadful for being familiar.

Last night, Crowley had fallen asleep on the sofa, sprawled on his stomach with his phone in his hand, legs every which way, one foot trailing on the floor. Aziraphale had looked up from his book at the muffled thump of the phone hitting the carpet and seen the infernal majesty of Crowley spread out like a feast before him. His breath had caught in his throat, desire and terror -- opposing forces of the same overwhelming intensity -- rising in his chest. For thousands of years, he had been certain of their mutual destruction, should he ever act on this desire. Now, Aziraphale truly believed that all barriers between them were removed, that there was no reason at all why he couldn’t, shouldn’t, reach out to stroke the angular shoulder, press his lips to the fiery hair. And he was nearly sick with fear. Reeling out of his chair, he’d shuffled off into the study and curled himself into a ball in his chair, cold and shaking.

Asking Crowley to move here with him is, Aziraphale thinks, the bravest thing he has ever done. Far more so than any actions he took on what should have been the last day of the world (he had taken Crowley’s hand, on the bus back from Tadfield, determined to give what comfort he could, and had almost shaken apart as Crowley returned the pressure of his fingers the whole way back to London and didn’t say a word). Taking this cottage with Crowley is far braver than marching into Hell in his skin, if the depth and continuity of his fear is anything to go by (courage hadn’t entered into that; he had had no fear for himself and would have done anything to save Crowley, anything at all).

Is this story new to you? This story, where the angel has felt the demon’s love for him since they met in the Garden?

Aziraphale has always known that Crowley loves him. Shocking that first day and shocking a thousand times since, Aziraphale has been grateful for it, buoyed by it for six thousand years without ever once understanding it. An angel can sense love, it is true. But all love feels like Love, to an angel: there is no comprehending its shape, its qualities, its true nature. He would never take Crowley’s love for granted, but it cannot possibly be what Aziraphale feels for him. The daily assurance of Crowley’s love is not enough to quiet the gnawing terror in his heart.

If Aziraphale had known how much it would hurt to be here, to stay here, he would never have made this happen. But now Crowley has put down roots -- Crowley is happy, a thing he has never seen before in all their millennia, a blessed thing, a holy thing -- and Aziraphale would not disturb the tender new growth of him for anything in the world.

The door creaks open, wafting in a fresh layer of salt and sea over the comforting smell of hearth fires and coffee, tea leaves and paper, and the fragrance any human might have anticipated but Aziraphale had not: the smell he and Crowley make together as their bodies shed cells and become part of the cottage, part of this space. This should be the smell of home, the first greeting when you open the door, even before the loved one calls out to you in welcome, the essence of safety that you breathe in as you let go of outside and come in, come in, you’re home.

But Aziraphale rarely steps outside the cottage these days, so he rarely comes in. And he does not feel safe.

Aziraphale has never felt safe since the day he was made.

“Wanna try that bavette steak at Amorette? Or the trout salad, you haven’t had that yet.”

Crowley’s voice, unheard these many hours, shivers through Aziraphale as though he could feel the minute waves of sound as a physical caress. The twilight is kind to Crowley -- all lights are kind to Crowley -- the dim grey damping down the fire of his hair but also softening his features, gentling them. So soft and gentle Aziraphale almost believes Crowley would welcome the touch of his fingers along his cheek. Aziraphale’s fingertips tingle. It’s grown so much worse lately, this wanting. He never used to allow himself to imagine touching Crowley when Crowley was actually in the room, not intentionally. Or when he did, he could divert himself quickly without toppling over into this horrible, yawning emptiness. His stomach clenches and he reels himself in.

“Thank you, Crowley, but…”

Aziraphale does not want dinner. He does not, as the humans say these days, eat his feelings; food is a genuine pleasure to him in and of itself, never a replacement for something else. No, when his feelings are sufficiently disturbed, Aziraphale reverts to type: aethereal beings have no need of food. When Aziraphale is hungry in his soul, he cannot eat.

The ache that he feels inside him now when he is with Crowley has been making their long habit of shared meals more and more difficult. Last night, he had fibbed about scoffing a packet of biscuits late in the afternoon and said he wasn’t hungry, but he can’t keep making excuses. Crowley isn’t stupid. This, Aziraphale thinks, will reveal him. He doesn’t know what to do.

Crowley is wearing his glasses, but Aziraphale can see the expression of disappointment that settles over his face. Aziraphale turns his head, away from the slight droop of feature that he knows intellectually is nothing like what Crowley wore at the bandstand, nothing like the way he looked on the street in front of the shop, begging Aziraphale to go to the stars with him. And yet his throat seizes and aches. Letting Crowley down again, as he lets everyone down, always.

All Aziraphale has ever been is a disappointment. God had created him for a single, specific purpose, and he had failed spectacularly. After the sword, the Almighty never spoke to him again.

The other angels regarded him with obvious distaste. Gabriel, with false cheer, demoted him and reassigned him to Earth. Any time he’s been in Heaven, any time he’s seen the others, he’s been met with the same icy disdain. They’d barely tolerated him. He’d always tried to do his best, and it was never good enough.

The faith that should have sustained him had begun to wash away almost immediately, eroding bit by bit, almost imperceptibly. He had believed, or had thought he believed, that God was on his side all the time, and yet everywhere he’d looked, doubt had dribbled in. Aziraphale had not understood that he was truly underwater until the end times. The tremble in his foundations was there from the beginning; indeed, from the Beginning. And the hollow quake in the pit of his stomach is there now as it was then and has been always.

Only now, it’s worse. And he doesn’t know why.

Aziraphale can’t disappoint Crowley. He must try harder. He turns back quickly. He forces the edges of his lips up, trying for appeasement. He straightens his waistcoat. “On second thought, dinner sounds lovely.”

 


"Chilly, angel?" Crowley asks, noticing that he's slightly huddled in on himself, hugging his empty stomach. Crowley is very observant. Aziraphale should do better. He sits up properly.

"A bit," he admits, but Crowley is already flicking switches, turning the heater on. He manipulates his phone as well, choosing music for the journey. A young woman sings in English and Russian, grunting and thumping her piano. Aziraphale doesn’t care for it, but he is grateful for the noise, the distraction. He clutches his seat and wishes Crowley would keep his eyes on the road. It's not far to the village, maybe three or four miles, but the drive takes them along the cliffs, a single twisting and vertiginous lane over the short barrier of which there are hundreds and hundreds of feet of inky nothing, a long sheer drop into the cold, black, churning sea. For a creature with wings, this should not be alarming. But Aziraphale can’t remember the last time he flew, can’t imagine what would happen -- can imagine only too well, actually -- if the car were to go over the edge, the two of them trapped in it together, whirling, plummeting...don’t think about it.

Don't look at Crowley's mouth, relaxed and turned up a bit at the corners as he handles the car he loves so well. Don’t look at the way the moonlight picks out the fine bones of his face. Don’t look at the way his fingers curve loosely around the wheel, moving with the turns in a gentle caress, the way his long, tapering thighs tense and relax as he works the pedals. On the other side, out the window; the abyss.

Amorette is an above-average French bistro, particularly for a small coastal hamlet outside of the main tourist areas. Indeed, it's one of the reasons Aziraphale chose this village, this cottage. The interior is cosy, dimly lit with a rosy glow and candles on the tables, quiet with carpeting and draperies on the walls. The bistro is favoured by couples on a night out, and Aziraphale notes several such couples as the maître d' shows them to their usual table. They incline toward one another, talking and laughing. One pair is holding hands, and for a moment Aziraphale is blinded by an envious rage, as he careens, seasick, between hope and despair. And then there is a chair in front of him and he drops into it.

Crowley is subdued this evening, perhaps responding to Aziraphale's mood. Aziraphale feels a stab of guilt and attempts to cheer things along.

"How's the Malbec?"

"Pleasant enough," Crowley says, taking another swallow. "Not a patch on what we had in Sarlat that time. When was it? 1732? ‘33?"

Aziraphale remembers a lighter version of himself. Happier. More optimistic, though still in Heaven's clutches, and already burning with love. He tries to smile. "You lost the coin toss, I believe. Had to go to Carmague to bless some crops?"

"Crops! Nah. Horses. Some kind of equine plague, had to go cure ‘em. Least I didn't have to ride ‘em."

Aziraphale’s smile is genuine this time, imagining Crowley laying hands on the creatures, undoubtedly with great tenderness in spite of himself. “You do have a way with animals.”

Crowley tosses his head at this, and as usual does not acknowledge the compliment. “How’s your Riesling?”

“It’s fine. Refreshing.” Aziraphale is drinking it quickly. He’s missed the familiar ease of their meals together in the months since their move, and tonight he is stilted, uncomfortable. Perhaps if he can get just tipsy enough to breathe easier, it will feel the way it used to do.

Their food arrives, the bright and savory aroma of Aziraphale’s trout salad wafts up from the plate, and Aziraphale sighs sadly. The presentation is beautiful, everything looks and smells divine. His stomach shrivels. He doesn’t know how he’s going to cope with this.

Crowley has ordered the steak, which is served with frites. Crowley is not an eater, but there are some culinary temptations that even he cannot resist, and this is one of them. Aziraphale watches as Crowley lifts a golden wedge to his mouth, catches the slight upward twist of his expression as he chews with pleasure. Crowley’s bottom lip glistens slightly with oil. Aziraphale imagines how it would taste. Salty, warm, unctuous with --

“Want some?” Crowley makes an expansive gesture at his plate. Aziraphale realizes he’s been staring, has just enough presence of mind to note the inversion of their usual roles at table. He shakes his head, then thinks how odd it will look if he refuses.

“Thank you,” he says quietly, spearing a frite with his fork. It smells like pure maillard reaction: toasty caramelized perfection in potato form, and he is not the least bit interested in tasting it. The crunchy exterior and hot flaky interior sit like sand in his mouth. His body feels like an empty shell, with no mechanism for processing such an intrusion. Sullying the temple. With the aid of an impolitely large gulp of wine, he swallows.

Crowley is peering at him over his glasses. “You all right?”

Aziraphale rallies. “Of course! Of course. How did your garden look today?”

Crowley begins to narrate, devouring his frites and occasionally sawing at his steak as Aziraphale picks at his salad. He’s pleased to have chosen the right topic -- Crowley is animated, and Aziraphale watches with a warm glow as he describes his plans for companion crops and a new design for the border in the spring. Crowley can’t stop smiling, and for a few minutes all Aziraphale wants is to be here with him in this precious new life where he is eager and optimistic. Then he wants to take this new, exuberant Crowley into his arms, and then he wants to feel that smile against his lips, because he cannot just enjoy this blessed moment, he thinks bitterly. There is no end to what Aziraphale wants.

The waiter comes by to ask how they’re doing, and Aziraphale almost spends a miracle to send her away, but it’s too late, Crowley has noticed that he’s barely touched his food.

“Don’t you like it?”

“It’s fine, Crowley, really.”

Crowley's brows draw together over his glasses. “Send it back and get something else.”

Aziraphale is horrified. “I couldn’t do that! There’s nothing wrong with it.” He turns to the waiter. “We’re fine, thank you.” She retreats, and Aziraphale pokes at the fish with his fork. Takes a regretful bite of greens. Chews, he thinks, like a cow.

Crowley is staring at him now, and not with pleasure. There's a look on his face Aziraphale doesn't recognize. It makes him nervous. More nervous.

"I'd -- I'd like another of those," Aziraphale fibs, indicating Crowley's fries, "if you don't mind."

Crowley pushes the plate over, and this at least is familiar. Aziraphale spears a frite with a fork, tries to make himself want it. Chokes down the wedge of potato somehow, as Crowley regards him frankly over the rim of his wine glass. Aziraphale watches the long line of his throat as he tips it back for the last swallow. Imagines what it would be like to kiss him there.

Crowley signals for the bill.

 


The next evening, it is all to do over again. It’s another surprisingly bright day for the time of year, and Crowley has been working in the garden, then out walking on the sand. Aziraphale mends books and tries to read and frets and gnaws his lip and wants and wants and wants. And then twilight falls, and Aziraphale finds himself sitting alone in the dark until Crowley’s feet crunch up the gravel path, until Crowley comes in, regards Aziraphale curiously, and switches on the lights.

“How about the pub tonight?” Crowley is asking, and Aziraphale simply cannot face that drive into the village, cannot face another plate of food set before him that he will be unable to eat, cannot face Crowley across the table, disappointed in him.

“No need, my dear. I’m not hungry.”

This is a lie. Aziraphale is starving.

Crowley shifts a little, expression changing to the one from yesterday that Aziraphale still can’t identify. “I’ll open that bottle of Brunello, shall I?” And he sways off to the kitchen.

Aziraphale swallows. The relief he feels -- Crowley isn’t pressing the point -- is automatic and transitory, overtaken quickly by a stamp of pain in his chest. The cottage is small. Aziraphale’s want is huge. At least, with this, he has practice. Millennia of practice. At least, the alcohol will help.

He shuffles to the sofa in the lounge and drops into the corner of it, listening to the pop and clink from the kitchen. Crowley is a voluble drunk; if he consumes enough, he’ll carry the conversation and Aziraphale can gaze at him in a semi-placid stupor without making a fool of himself. He hopes.

Crowley slides back into the room with the bottle and two glasses, and Aziraphale wonders how it is possible to be surprised by the way his heart leaps every time he sees Crowley, the way his fingers itch to stroke his hair; how it is possible that after six thousand years he has not found a way to defeat this feeling. But then, he has never been particularly good at defeating his feelings. Indeed, aside from his feelings for Crowley, he has never really tried. He cannot conquer his desire, and he cannot conquer the fear that always follows.

Crowley reaches out to hand him the glass, a modern stemless variety he’d picked out specially for the cottage. It is not possible to pass this sort of glass, hand to hand, without touching Crowley’s fingers. Casual touches like these have never been part of their lexicon, not even through periods in human history when it was a commonplace for men to walk down the street holding hands. They are not men, and Aziraphale feels an aethereal ripple, a surge of sparking sensation, an abrasion in the fabric of the universe, every time their fingers brush. He doesn’t know what Crowley feels.

Aziraphale takes the glass, grazing Crowley’s hand and feeling the warm blaze of it trail down his arm and into his gut. He sees for a minute a flare of white light mingled with dancing gold sparks, Crowley’s love and his demonic nature entwined and reaching for him, and then it’s gone. He hastily drinks half his wine before setting the glass down on the table.

Crowley is watching him, still with that unfamiliar expression. Is he sad? Upset? Has Aziraphale disturbed his peace? Crowley’s hand goes up to his face -- oh, no, don’t take off your glasses, please, Aziraphale thinks, I can’t bear it -- and then those golden eyes are regarding him frankly, as always unblinking. Aziraphale drops his eyes, follows Crowley’s hand pocketing the glasses, then clicking his fingers to light the fire in the hearth across from them.

“Angel, why were you sitting here in the dark?”

The flames dance in the fireplace, and Aziraphale feels drawn in by the brightness. Human, he thinks, so different from the cold light of Heaven, the cold light of what he is. So much warmer, so much more useful. A log shifts and pops. He realizes he should speak.

“It gets dark so early, sometimes I forget to turn on a light.” A thin excuse, he knows. They’ve been here since September, are already well past the winter solstice.

He can feel that Crowley is looking at him. Aziraphale darts his eyes to Crowley’s face, gilded now in firelight, and desire wells up in him like a savage thing. Why must Crowley be so beautiful, he thinks bitterly, knowing as he does so that it would not matter what form Crowley wore -- Aziraphale would want him in any skin, in no skin at all, with the same clawing need he feels now. He drops his eyes to his lap, where his hands shift restlessly. He reaches for his glass again.

Outside, the weather changes. Aziraphale can feel the drop in the pressure, hear a shift in the wind. A storm is coming. He hopes it blows over quickly, or they’ll be cramped together here for days and he will go quietly out of his mind.

“Why’re you holed up in here, though?” Crowley asks, as though he can hear Aziraphale’s thoughts. “Weather’s been lovely. Garden’s looking a treat. And you love the sea.” He meets Aziraphale’s eyes until Aziraphale looks away. Then he sips his wine, and Aziraphale follows the glass to Crowley’s lips, wondering at their deep color, imagining their softness under his. The lips part to receive the wine and Aziraphale glances away again, pondering Crowley’s question. Questions have only ever got Crowley into trouble, but he won’t stop asking. Crowley is brave in ways Aziraphale could never be. Crowley doesn’t cringe away from the truth inside of him. Crowley always wants to know.

“I’m -- I’m busy with my books,” Aziraphale tries. He shouldn’t be burdening Crowley with his feelings. Crowley is happy here, and he deserves to be happy. Crowley shouldn’t have to be concerned about him.

Ah. That’s the expression on Crowley’s face that he didn’t recognize. Concern. Is it new? Or has he just never noticed it before?

Crowley puts down his wine and turns to face Aziraphale more fully.

“Aziraphale. Why did we come here?”

“I told you, my dear. I thought it would be a bit of a holiday --”

“You’re lying to me. Stop lying to me.” There’s an edge in Crowley’s voice, but it isn’t anger, Aziraphale doesn’t think. Frustration? Bitterness? And then a pulse of Crowley’s love gathers, warm and bright, and he can feel it flickering out toward him. Aziraphale exhales shakily.

“I’m sorry. I just -- you shouldn’t have to be -- I don’t want to bother you with this…” He wrings his hands before they can reach for Crowley’s.

“When have you ever not wanted to bother me?” Haven’t I always been here when you needed me, is the question Crowley won’t ask, but it’s there, and he’s right. Aziraphale closes his eyes for a moment, leans into the truth: Crowley deserves his trust. Aziraphale takes a breath. He feels bolder even in his shame.

“I wanted to come here because I was afraid, Crowley. I kept feeling they were going to come after us, despite all we’d done to keep ourselves safe. And I know they could find us anywhere, but I felt so exposed in London.” He had never felt the same about the bookshop since Gabriel had set foot in it, since Sandalphon had scented Crowley there and leered like the bully he was. Even after the shop had burned and Adam had remade it, Aziraphale couldn’t shake the memory of that day, the looming threat, the violation of it. “I felt I had -- we had -- to run away.” He reaches for his wine. “And I know you know exactly what that feels like.” He drains his glass.

“I do.” Nothing more. Crowley is waiting for him to go on. How will he fill this silence? How can he?

“I thought I would feel safer, here.” He swallows. “With you. Especially when I -- when I see you so happy. Oh, Crowley --“ and here he bursts out, for a moment a true giddiness suffuses his heart, “it is such a joy to see you so happy! I never thought to see it, to have a part in creating it, and it is such a gift.” You are such a gift, one I can never hope to earn. How could I ever be enough to keep you happy?

Crowley’s lips twist up in the soft, fond, closed-mouth smile that Aziraphale adores. He feasts on it for 4.3 seconds and then it’s gone. “I have been, ’s true. I love this place. The world didn’t end, and all the best bits of it are here.” He looks straight into Aziraphale’s eyes. Aziraphale feels the the flare of his love again and he blinks against it, against the pain twisting in his stomach. “But you’re not happy.” He pours them each another glass. “You don’t feel safe.”

Aziraphale takes a bracing swallow of wine, another. Lets the warmth and ease work its way through him. “The fear, it’s --” he can’t describe it. Crowley wants to know, he deserves to, even as Aziraphale wants to protect him from his foolishness. How can he puncture Crowley’s hard-won serenity like this? What does he think he’s doing? But the wine is loosening his tongue. “It’s been with me all my life. And I don’t know why, but it’s worse now. After all we’ve done to protect the world and each other, it’s worse, and I --” He falters. The rest is too much. It’s all too much. He’s too much.

“It’s me, isn’t it?” Crowley says. Aziraphale tracks Crowley’s gaze, down, and that’s when he notices that his own hands are shaking. Crowley abruptly stands, crosses the room, putting ten feet between them, and a tiny piece of Aziraphale crumples. Loss? Relief? Both? He doesn’t know anymore. “Angel, you know I’d never do anything to hurt you.” Crowley runs a hand through his hair, over his face, turns away from him. “Shit. I’ll go.”

Unthinkable. “No, no -- please, Crowley.” Aziraphale stands quickly, moving toward him, making vague placating gestures.

“Then what? Tell me.” He wheels on Aziraphale, places both hands on Aziraphale’s shoulders and Aziraphale stands rooted to the spot, gasping, flooding. “You’ve gotta tell me. Let me help. I can’t stand it -- you like this. Fuck’s sake, you’re not eating, angel.”

The force of Crowley’s love almost knocks him over this time, the intensity of an electrical storm, striking him and leaving him breathless. He grasps for it as though it were solid, something to cling to as his own love for Crowley thunders through him. He feels helpless. If he still prayed, he would pray, as he used to pray: let me be enough.

Thousands of years ago, Aziraphale boarded a ship -- a boat he'd call it now -- in Athens that was making for Santorini. It was a brilliant summer day, the sun baking the bleached city and all its inhabitants like bread in a rough clay oven, and Aziraphale, who did indeed love the sea, was glad to get aboard and set sail into the freshening wind.

A storm had blown up just an hour or so later, and by the time the sun began to sink, all the passengers were having trouble keeping their footing and the sailors looked grim. Gale-force winds blew freezing, piercing rain into their faces and the boat seemed both to pitch and yaw, timbers creaking and groaning, doing its best to dump Aziraphale to his knees at every moment.

Aziraphale had felt a tightening in his stomach as the first mate shouted at him to get below, get out of the way. He'd been trying to soothe and shepherd the other passengers, all while firing off a series of miracles: strength and fortitude to the captain and crew, resilience to the ship's hull and mast and lines, what calming influence he could exert over the weather without blowing the storm into other unsuspecting vessels on some other ungovernable sea. He was turning to urge a terrified young mother belowdecks when he was struck hard from behind by something -- he never knew what -- and flung into the sea.

The force of the impact might have killed a human, or at least knocked them insensible. But Aziraphale had not been discorporated. And he was fully conscious, shocked, and suddenly, brutally, terrified. The sea was a cold, careless, enormous power, an unimaginable force spinning him upside down and buffeting him great distances as though he were a tiny, inconsequential thing. Aziraphale required no oxygen, but he was in pain and in panic. The chilling, merciless abuse went on for minutes before Aziraphale managed enough presence of mind for a small miracle, surfacing near enough the ship that one of the hands caught sight of him and threw him a line. He'd clung shivering to the rope as they hauled him aboard, and collapsed on the deck spewing water, no better than a human, no more use than one. Ashamed and sick and miserable as they bore their way through the storm until it blew itself out.

From that day to this, Aziraphale has known there are Earthbound forces that are stronger than he is. And the strongest of these, he thinks wryly, is love.

“It’s not you I’m afraid of,” he says, focusing on the weight of Crowley’s hands, holding him steady. “And it’s not Heaven or Hell, though I thought it was, for the longest time. I was so afraid to -- to be too close to you, so afraid they would destroy us for it. But I know now that that’s not going to happen.” He takes a deep breath. “That fear, it’s just habit. It will take time, but I can -- I can unlearn it.”

He feels better, somehow, for having said this. A little more solid. Less in danger of being swept away. Less in danger. He realizes he has been speaking to his shoes this whole time, with occasional glances at Crowley’s face. And now that he’s begun, he’s not going to be able to stop, is he. He can’t let Crowley leave. He can’t chase him away, can’t let things go back to what they were before, never again, and he wouldn’t want that now. He’s come too close to what he wants most in all the world to let it slip through his fingers. And if it’s also what he fears most in all the world, well, he will let Crowley be brave enough for the both of them.

He does wish Crowley were wearing his glasses, though, for this next bit.

Aziraphale lifts his eyes to Crowley’s face. Crowley is waiting. “I’m afraid -- Crowley, you’ve no idea of the enormity --” He takes a breath, tries again. “The size of my love for you is truly terrifying. I’ve read everything there is to read on the subject, and I don’t have words for it. I want to consume you --”

A smile is breaking across Crowley’s face, his eyes glowing in the firelight, a rare flash of teeth. “Aziraphale, I’m a demon, remember? Did you think I couldn’t tell?”

“I’m not talking about lust!” Aziraphale is flustered and even a little irritated, for a moment. Their old patterns, surprising and welcome. The gnawing in his gut has lifted a little. Crowley is grinning most wickedly and Aziraphale has knee-jerked into thwarting, but he must amend, having come so far. “Well, not only about lust.” He raises a trembling hand to Crowley’s face, daring to stroke the hair from his temple with the tips of his fingers. The most he has ever done. Sparks fly from his fingertips, connecting to Crowley’s skin, the coarse weave of his hair. More. Oh, oh, he must have more. But -- “I could always sense your love. I didn’t think you would know mine. Or want it.” Such poor love as mine, Aziraphale thinks. Immense and insufficient.

“Aziraphale.” Crowley’s voice is hoarse. He clears his throat. “I can’t sense love the way an angel does. But there’s nothing I want more, or have ever wanted more, than yours.” He takes Aziraphale’s hand in his own, and Aziraphale misses the pressure from his shoulder for an instant before Crowley’s fingers are squeezing his gently, and the thrill of starlight is coursing through him where they touch. Aziraphale leans into it with his whole aethereal self, his true nature vibrating to the unearthly chimes as the warmth of Crowley’s fingers seeps into his skin. He feels at once anchored and free.

“I’m so -- I’m still so afraid I will be a disappointment to you,” he murmurs, returning the pressure against Crowley’s hand. “I know I can be tiresome.”

“No, now, don’t you dare talk like that,” Crowley says, and now there is anger in his voice, though Aziraphale knows it isn’t directed at him, not really. “Disappointment? Bollocks. You won’t. You couldn’t.”

Aziraphale, against every impulse, body and soul, takes a half step back and looks at Crowley frankly. “Are you trying to tell me I never have been? Crowley --”

“Listen, angel, we said and did a lot of stupid things those last few days before Armageddon, we were under a lot of stress --”

“You’re too generous.” Aziraphale swallows, his doubt pouring back into him. Tears prick his eyes. “I failed you. I was awful. How do you know I won’t --”

Crowley closes the gap between them and takes Aziraphale’s face in his hands. A soothing chord ripples through Aziraphale, a major key wrapping around him like a fuzzy blanket. “I forgive you,” Crowley says. “For all of it. For everything you said, and all you think you’ve done. I forgive you.”

Crowley tugs them closer together, closer than they've ever been. Aziraphale is breathing his breath, filling his nose with the leather-and-metal scent of him, faint trace of burnt sugar, the soft bite of wine tangling in the air between them. The wind rattles the shutters; the cottage shakes. Aziraphale shakes. Please, he thinks. Oh, please.

"Please, Aziraphale," Crowley rasps, once again as though he is right inside his mind, "can I kiss you?"

Aziraphale's useless heart is thundering, the clawing need inside him screaming, but he knows if he lets Crowley kiss him he won't be able to stop. He makes himself say "Are you sure you want -- that?"

The slightest curve of a smile teases Crowley's lips, and he presses their foreheads together -- a brief burst of light shimmers where they touch -- and then pulls back a pace, hands on Aziraphale's shoulders again. He meets Aziraphale's eyes with his firelit gaze, pupils blown wide. Aziraphale is spellbound.

"Aziraphale. I want it all. I want you strong and brave, and weak and scared. I want you kind and gentle, and mean and petty. Brilliant and charming, foolish and embarrassing. I want you every way you are. And yes, I want you hungry. Ravenous. I want your gorgeous soft body and your clever hands and that pure, holy, insatiable mouth all over me. I want to spend every minute left on this planet and in the universe giving back to you the desire you've been immolating me with for six thousand years."

"Crowley," Aziraphale gasps, as something inside him breaks to the surface, sights land, flings itself gasping on the shore, "you're a poet."

"Angel, you're killing me here." Crowley returns one warm hand to his face, cupping his jaw, thumb brushing his cheekbone. Bright crackles follow the line of it and Aziraphale lights up from head to foot. "Can I kiss you?"

"Oh, God, Crowley," Aziraphale blasphemes, "Please, please kiss me."

Aziraphale keeps his eyes open as Crowley gently descends, until his entire field of vision is nothing but Crowley. The pressure against his lips is so tender, even chaste. Aziraphale's hands have risen, floated as though gravity were a mere suggestion, to Crowley's head and as he finally threads his fingers through the rough strands, he parts his lips in a wanton moan. His tongue slides hesitantly along Crowley's bottom lip, and oh, the flavor of him, finer and more essential than anything Aziraphale has ever tasted. The room whirls around them, the light of Crowley's love sparkling in his mouth like champagne as outside the rain begins to fall. Inside the kiss, Aziraphale is found, a fixed point as the world spins, anchored, hands gripping Crowley, tongue knowing Crowley. It's all getting wet and lovely and then he wonders if it’s too wet and suddenly he breaks off, unsure, but then he can't bear the loss of contact and presses desperate kisses to Crowley's throat.

"I've never --" he admits in a broken whisper.

Crowley wraps his arms round Aziraphale's waist, and oh, the glory of Crowley's body pressing against him, the firm heat of Crowley all up and down him, his corded arms pulling Aziraphale tight. Energy flares between them, occult and aethereal sparking, rubbing up against each other, getting used to one another. "It's all right," Crowley says, low and gentle, but Aziraphale can hear the want in it now. "You'll work it out." Aziraphale feels the movement of his throat under his lips. "I have faith in you."

Crowley dips his head to kiss him again, and Aziraphale begins to know, at last, what it is to be fed. His whole skin is alive with craving, and already his mind is racing to what's next, to buttons undone, clothing pushed aside, all he wants to see and touch and taste and have of Crowley. But inside, as the glow of Crowley's love takes root in his heart and his own twines around it, something is nourished even as it craves, something is quieted even as it wails for release, something is soothed even as it trembles.

Do you know what it is, to grieve that a kiss must end, even though it means that another can begin? Have you read the story of the angel and the demon, who do not need to breathe?

The kiss is deep and wet and slow and it goes on and on. Aflame with sensation, the unbelievably intimate taste of Crowley, the texture of his teeth and tongue, his palate, my God, Aziraphale still tries to bring to bear what he has learnt about kissing from every lyric he's read on the subject, every romantic novel. He does not know if he is doing it well. He knows that Crowley is making little noises in his throat, is stroking the nape of his neck and making all the tiny hairs there stand endwise; is, most importantly, not stopping him. Aziraphale drags his nails along Crowley’s scalp, giving life to the desperate clutching he’s felt in his hands for millennia, and Crowley growls into his mouth, so he does it again. He can feel the gathering weight in his cock now, as the tingle there becomes an ache. One of Crowley’s hands slides down onto the small of his back, stops just as Aziraphale is thinking lower, go lower, and he knows he shouldn’t rush through this, should take the time to savor, but he is ravenous.

Aziraphale begins pushing at Crowley’s jacket, trying to get it off his shoulders without breaking the kiss, can’t, and now he’s the one growling, biting in infinite loss and frustration and delight at Crowley’s jaw as he wrestles the tight black garment off his upper arms. Crowley releases him to shrug the jacket off and then gathers him back up to plant kisses down his neck. “You smell so good,” Crowley says, “you feel so good.”

“I’m -- I’m glad,” Aziraphale says, unbuttoning Crowley’s waistcoat and shirt with a quick miracle. He is, he’s truly relieved that Crowley is enjoying himself, he has been trying to make sure of it, but his own greed is so overwhelming that he fears he’s inconsiderate. He makes himself stop for a moment, plants a kiss in the hollow between Crowley’s collarbones and breathes, getting the scent of Crowley into his lungs. His eyes flutter shut. His heart is hammering. His hands come up to stroke Crowley’s chest, all that bare skin under his fingertips at last, rough little coils of hair, oh, Crowley’s nipples, pebbling at his touch. He leans back to see the long pale planes of Crowley’s torso, pushes the shirt away. “What do you like, here?” he asks, breath catching as he slides his fingers gently over Crowley’s flat pectorals.

“Kiss me,” Crowley says, soft and low. “Use your pretty mouth. Lick.” Aziraphale hears the click as he swallows. “Bite.”

Aziraphale’s mouth floods and his ears burn, again as though Crowley’s want-deepened voice were a physical thing, stroking him there. His cock twitches in his clothes. He doesn’t know to whom to be grateful, that what Crowley wants is what he himself most wants, but gratitude is what he feels in his heart as he presses his lips to a coral nipple and darts his tongue out to taste.

Crowley shivers under his tongue, his whole body trembling, Aziraphale can feel it against his legs, hips, arms. Yes, Aziraphale thinks, licking more firmly as the nipple peaks, yes, this. He drags his teeth lightly across, then bites down, working his tongue back and forth across the tender flesh between his teeth. Crowley sucks a breath between his teeth and clutches at his head. “Yesss, yesss, like that.”

The top note of Crowley is savory, salt and sea air, giving way to mineral earthiness and, at the base, a mellow sweetness discernible only to the connoisseur. Aziraphale is pleased to understand that Crowley’s complex flavor is exactly right and everything that it should be. It is also unimaginably delicious. Aziraphale works, wet and urgent, swallowing repeatedly as his mouth continues to fill. He moves to the other nipple and Crowley sighs, tightening his hold on Aziraphale’s head.

Aziraphale strokes Crowley’s chest and belly as he continues to bite and lick, and his fingers find the narrow trail of hair disappearing into Crowley’s trousers. God. He drops to his knees. He draws his tongue down Crowley’s flat stomach, feeling him shudder, then presses his lips there over and over. Unbuckles the snake-head belt with trembling fingers. The ravening thing inside him grovels as he regards the shape of Crowley’s stiffened prick pressing against his jeans. To taste him here, to have him this way, he is overwhelmed at the thought and he knows he is not at all prepared. He rubs his cheek against the rough denim hot over Crowley’s cock and hears him gasp. “I don’t -- I don’t quite know what I’m doing --” he begins. He catches a new scent here, a deeper, damper, more complicated one.

“Angel,” Crowley’s hands are petting his hair, gentling him even as Aziraphale can feel the tremor in them. “I’ve wanted this since the first time you smiled at me. Technique won’t matter.”

Since Eden. Crowley has wanted his mouth since Eden. Aziraphale feels dizzy with it, almost bold. And yet. “Please, you must -- if it’s not good -- if I’m not -- you must tell me.”

“You’ll be good,” Crowley says.

“Promise,” Aziraphale insists, unbuttoning Crowley’s flies.

“Promise.”

He reaches in, and Crowley moans as his cock springs forth into Aziraphale’s hand. For a moment Aziraphale just looks, looks at the tapering length of him, so hard he’s almost flush against his belly, purple at the tip, a lavish ruffled foreskin begging for his tongue. He reaches his other hand in to scoop up Crowley’s balls, tight and high, running his thumb over their tender skin. He tightens his grip on Crowley’s cock and looks up, sees Crowley looking down at him, eyes glinting, face open with desire. Aziraphale can’t resist rising up from his knees for a moment to claim Crowley’s mouth again in a brief kiss, Crowley’s cock still hot in his palm. Then he sinks back down, licks his lips, and begins.

Do you remember reading about how to please a lover? Gleaning details of forbidden fantasies in dog-eared magazines shoved under the mattress, hastily erased browser histories, sketchy maps to wonderland in the pages of bestsellers you poached from family shelves?

Aziraphale darts his tongue out across the tender tip, where a bead of moisture is glistening, and laps it away. Savory, smooth, and briny, like an oyster, and his nose fills with this new scent, copper and earth. He swirls around the crown, licks down to his fist where he’s clutching Crowley, unmoving, and remembers to move. “Unh,” Crowley grunts, above him, and he feels his own cock twitch as he realizes that Crowley will make noises and he can drink them up and yes, yes, he is so thirsty too. He slides his hand slowly back and forth as he moves his tongue around, exploring the delicate skin, the taste of him. He feels Crowley’s love wrap around him tightly, a glowing layer of warmth that embraces him everywhere. He moans, opening to take Crowley in.

Crowley’s cock had seemed so elegant in his hands, long, handsome, generous but not intimidating. Now it seems like an unimaginably huge thing to have inside his mouth. His mind is flooding with bits and pieces of books and poetry and erotic art, Greek urns for goodness’ sake, too much, and he feels his courage waver. But the ravening thing inside him clamors for more, and he lifts his eyes to see Crowley looking down at him, eyes wide in wonder and fully yellow to their edges. How often he has longed for this; he cannot fail now. He moves his head back and forth and his mouth fills with spit, it’s good, of course it’s good, he is full of Crowley. With his free hand, he strokes Crowley’s balls, feels them tighten.

He begins moving his hand and head faster and Crowley lets out a soft hiss. “Mind your teeth,” he says gently, and Aziraphale is pierced with regret, but then Crowley’s hand is on his head, stroking through his hair, soothing. Aziraphale pulls back, covers his teeth with his lips, and tries again. “Aaanh, yesss. Yeah,” Crowley rasps, still petting him. Aziraphale feels the brine of pre-ejaculate on his tongue and eagerly swallows, ardently presses his tongue to Crowley as he moves, and Crowley moans, “Aaah, good, that’s good.” Aziraphale drinks his words, too, slaking his thirst.

Aziraphale’s jaw aches, and yet he feels he could happily do this forever. He can hear Crowley’s breath coming fast, and he is doing that. He can feel Crowley’s knees shaking, and he is doing that. He can feel Crowley’s hands tightening in his hair, and he is doing that. Aziraphale’s mouth is full, his hands are full; he is not satisfied but he will be. For this moment, he knows that he will be. Let it never end.

And yet the wild, demanding thing inside breaks away from him, and before he knows what he is about, he has removed his hand from Crowley’s cock and is taking him deeper, trying to open his throat, this very advanced maneuver on his very first try, he wants to feel Crowley inside him as far as he can go, wants to devour. He chokes, pulls back, tears in his eyes not wholly from the gag reflex.

“It’s all right, you don’t have to --” Crowley pants.

He knows he doesn’t have to, but now he is determined. Nothing will stand between Aziraphale and what he wants. Aziraphale doesn’t understand the point of aethereal power if not to triumph over his human corporation in these little matters. He makes a minor anatomical adjustment, and now Crowley’s cock slides down into his throat like it was always meant to be there.

“Fuck,” Crowley breathes, dark and rich. The radiance of his love intensifies, filling Aziraphale with heat. Aziraphale feels he's at the very edge of being able to sense Crowley's desire, as though he himself were a demon. He is throbbing, his own cock singing with urgency. He tries to give Crowley everything he wants for himself.

His throat works inexpertly but passionately as he moves back and forth, taking Crowley as deeply as he can, over and over. His hands caress Crowley’s thighs, his taut abdomen, his beautiful hips. Crowley’s stopped moaning now and he’s breathing very fast, fingertips hard against Aziraphale’s scalp. Aziraphale increases the suction and --

“Aziraphale!” Voice harsh with urgency, a warning, and Aziraphale knows what it means and he thrills with anticipation. “You’re gonna make me --”

Yes. Aziraphale is united with the beast inside him now. He is one with his hunger, his thirst. Yes, and he grabs Crowley’s arse in both hands, forcing him deeper, moving his head fast, sucking hard, swirling his tongue, give me give me give me --

“Aah!” Crowley’s call is high, reedy, threaded with emotion. The first hot pulse hits Aziraphale’s throat and he gulps greedily, quickly looking up to see Crowley’s mouth wide, eyes screwed shut. “Aah! Aah!” Each cry sends a new surge of flavor into Aziraphale’s throat, and the surge of Crowley’s love comes with it, rushing through him now, under his skin, beyond his human body into the very essence of him.

Aziraphale is strong, rooted to the earth, connected to Crowley body and soul. For a moment, he’s fearless, and it’s Crowley who is shaking, and that brings Aziraphale back to himself, back to Crowley’s rough red curls tickling his nose, back to Crowley’s sweet softening cock in his mouth. He gives it another tender twirl with his tongue and Crowley hisses. With regret, Aziraphale pulls back, presses kisses to his heaving belly.

“Was it...was I…?” He thinks he was all right. He hopes.

“Wonderful,” Crowley says hoarsely, and then collapses suddenly into a tangle of quivering limbs on the floor beside Aziraphale, jeans awkwardly binding his knees together. He reaches out, tugs at Aziraphale’s shoulder. “You were wonderful. How’d you learn to--?” Crowley looks flushed, puzzled, entirely adorable.

“Really, Crowley, someday you ought to read a book.”

“Oh,” Crowley says quietly, a familiar fond look stealing over his face. Barest hint of a dimple. “Missed that smile.” The love is already planted there, now, inside of Aziraphale, and yet Crowley continues to foster new growth at every moment. He leans over to kiss Aziraphale’s jaw, his lips.

Aziraphale nudges Crowley’s mouth open, touches their tongues together, and suddenly what smugness he had attained is vanishing in the rising tide of his need. He tilts his head to deepen the kiss, lacing his fingers through Crowley’s hair, blocked from close contact by the tipi of Crowley’s knees. His prick strains against the front of his trousers as he leans forward, and he is suddenly aware of all the layers of cotton and linen and wool separating his burning skin from Crowley. He can’t bear it.

“I want you naked,” he murmurs against Crowley’s lips, and then is shocked at himself. But Crowley looks willing, even enthusiastic.

“Yeah,” he says. “You too.”

Aziraphale nods. He knows he is nothing special to look at, certainly nothing compared to Crowley, but Crowley’s love has made him brave enough for this. And Crowley’s fingers are at Aziraphale’s throat, at his tie. The rustle of the fabric under Crowley’s hands seems inordinately loud, and then the tie is undone, and he feels Crowley’s thumb on his neck, unbuttoning his collar. It is maddeningly slow, but Aziraphale has never seen anything like the tenderness on Crowley’s face. He can feel the heat of Crowley’s breath on his lips, on the newly-bared skin of his chest as Crowley bends to press a kiss there, over his heart.

Heat curls down from the kiss into Aziraphale’s belly, a trail of fire, and Aziraphale is urgent once more. He unbuttons his trousers, realizes he must remove his shoes first, and then he huffs in frustration, clicks his fingers, and sends their clothes to a neatly-folded pile on the sofa. Crowley looks up in surprise, meets his eyes, smiles.

And their arms reach out for each other, their bodies arc toward one another. It’s impossible to say who embraces whom, but it all seems to happen unbelievably slowly. Aziraphale’s heart hurts, a pain that is new and diffuse and woven with joy as he finds himself stretched out on top of Crowley, skin to skin, holding him. The press of their bodies together is electric, the slide of them together soft and hard at once, humming with aethereal power, and yet so human in the grind of shin against shin, the mesh of pubic hair rubbed together, the meat of Aziraphale’s cock falling perfectly into the divot of Crowley’s hip. Crowley’s hands slide over his back, his shoulders, leaving trails of light and heat in their wake. The warmth of the fire beside them is nothing to it.

Aziraphale buries his face in Crowley’s neck, inhaling, kissing, biting. Can’t help running his hands all over Crowley, grabbing him everywhere -- hair, shoulders, biceps, sides, hips, back up again. Restless hands, can’t get enough, can’t stop moving because Crowley is everywhere and he’s naked and what if this is his only chance. Can’t help pressing his cock against Crowley, his hardness implacable, his hunger opening up, a yawning pit at the center of him. He drags his teeth down Crowley’s shoulder, urged forward by the desperate craving for Crowley’s flesh in his jaws, then worries he’s hurting him and kisses over the scrapes. Crowley’s hands slide down to cup his arse, squeezing, pulling him closer, and he gasps as Crowley begins to move, the undulating sway that has inebriated Aziraphale for millennia but which he has only ever seen, for all he has imagined feeling it. Now Crowley is swaying those hips against him, and Aziraphale moans and writhes and tries not to give in to temptation.

It would be so easy to spend himself like this, here in the beautiful crease of Crowley’s thigh. But then this would be over, and while it feels like so much of what he has always wanted, it also feels like not enough. He knows faintly that he is ridiculous, greedy, a bad angel, but his mind is flipping urgently through the card catalogue of every erotic delectation he has ever read about, every possible way he can possess and be possessed, and he wants them all, and he wants them all now, and it is impossible to choose.

And what if he chooses wrong? What if he picks the wrong thing? What if he ruins this? What if it's gone forever?

Aziraphale’s stomach plunges. He is shaking. His breath is coming fast, heart thundering. He stops moving. “Please, I --” He tries. “Please, I --”

Crowley’s hips still. Cool fingers brush Aziraphale’s heated temple. One of Crowley’s long, elegant arms leaves him and fishes the blanket off the sofa, covers them both with it. Crowley rolls them over so that Aziraphale is on his back on the floor and Crowley is pressed into his side. Aziraphale closes his eyes, focuses on breathing in and out. He feels Crowley’s hand slide under the blanket and over his heart, a soothing pressure. “Love. What is it?”

Love, Aziraphale thinks. Love. How miraculous.

“How is it possible to be so aroused and so frightened at the same time?” Aziraphale asks, voicing a question he has wondered about for ages and never bothered to research.

“Quirk of these bodies. Built that way. Amygdala. Arousal’s arousal, scared or lusty.”

Aziraphale concentrates on the words, on the low crackle of Crowley’s voice, on the balm of his touch. Crowley presses a kiss to his forehead.

“You’re bloody amazing, you know that? I thought I knew what desire was, been my job for thousands of years. Never felt anything like you.” He kisses Aziraphale’s lips, chastely. “You’re almost as bad as me.”

“R-really?” Aziraphale opens his eyes, sees Crowley’s golden regard, smile lines crinkling the edges. So beautiful always, but especially when he smiles.

“So many times, angel, so many times I’ve almost kissed you, almost touched you, chatting away while we drank together and meanwhile all I could think of was bending you over the table, or sucking you off under it.” Aziraphale shivers, but it’s a pleasant shiver now. His breathing feels easier as he drinks in Crowley’s rough, tender words. Crowley pillows Aziraphale’s head on his arm, keeps that warm, gentle hand on his heart. Murmurs in his ear. “Hands in my pockets to keep ‘em off you, biting my lip to stop me biting yours. Then I’d go off and drive myself mad thinking about all the ways I’d touch you, all the ways I could make you come.”

Aziraphale closes his eyes and moans softly, still overwhelmed. He feels Crowley’s nose nudging his. “Hey,” Crowley says. Aziraphale meets his fiery eyes. “Let me tempt you.”

Aziraphale huffs a laugh. “I hardly think it’s possible for you to make me want you more.”

Crowley smiles, kisses him lightly. “Not what I meant.” Another kiss, as though he can’t stop himself, as though Aziraphale is the irresistible one. “You want everything. It’s...a lot. I could help you want...sssSomething.”

“Something specific, you mean?” He realizes he can let Crowley guide him, as Crowley has always done, always ahead of him, leading the way. Crowley will choose properly and well. He exhales, anchors himself firmly in Crowley’s golden, avid gaze. Aziraphale can’t help but arch his back a bit as Crowley’s hand flexes on his chest. “Such as?” he asks, trying to put a little flirtation into it. His prick is tingling fiercely now. Suddenly, he wants Crowley’s hand to move. Suddenly, he wants something very specific indeed.

Crowley grins a wide, wicked grin. He takes the edge of Aziraphale’s ear between his teeth for a moment and slides his hand down...not where Aziraphale had in mind, but to pinch a nipple, gently at first, then hard, rolling it between his fingers as Aziraphale whines at the spike of sensation. “Such as this,” Crowley says, moving to the other nipple and treating it in a similar fashion. Aziraphale twists under him, feels his prick slap against his thigh, turning the tingle to a burn. “And this,” Crowley purrs into his neck, biting him there just as he’s always dreamt of, while his beautiful long warm fingers pet down over his belly, skipping over the heat of him that is now aching for touch and moving low, to pet his thighs. Aziraphale’s brain is full of a single thought, now, fixed on the anticipated sensation of Crowley’s hand on his heated prick. It is all he wants, and at this moment it is strong enough to feel like all he has ever wanted.

“Oh, oh, please,” Aziraphale whispers.

Crowley draws his nails up the inside of Aziraphale’s thigh and strokes his balls before returning to pinching his nipple. Aziraphale writhes, and Crowley bites his neck again before, at last, feathering his fingers lightly down over his prick. “Hah!” Aziraphale gasps, as the sensation aligns with the image in his mind and the yearning in his heart. Crowley takes hold of him, still gentle, a long, generous stroke that pulls a moan out of his lungs. Repeated, slowly, and now Crowley’s love is growing in him, snaking up in branching tendrils around his heart, coiling and shimmering, alive. Aziraphale can’t stop the sounds he is making, doesn’t try, wants this so much and beyond that, wants Crowley to know what he’s feeling, how good this is.

It is so good, agonizingly slow and delicious, like a meal staged over hours. Aziraphale cannot stuff himself, cannot plough through the feast of delights without really tasting. He must wait patiently for everything to be served to him, savor each and every delicacy, idle between courses awash in delight. Crowley’s hand knows his body as Crowley himself knows his soul, every slightest change in pressure, in tempo, in the placement of thumb on his crown or fingers against his shaft calculated to give him the most exquisite pleasure, building his need while drawing it out as long as possible.

Crowley plasters himself more firmly against Aziraphale, and Aziraphale is hot, sweating. He tosses the blanket off, gropes at Crowley with one hand while flailing at the carpet with the other. Crowley lets go of him for a moment -- Aziraphale gasps, bereft -- but then he moves to straddle Aziraphale’s thighs, settling his slight weight and gripping Aziraphale’s prick anew. Crowley bends down to give a stinging, sucking bite to his neck, and Aziraphale worships the long press of his body, arching to rub up against him, wrapping both arms around him. Crowley sits back again, watching him, and Aziraphale watches too, watches Crowley’s eyes half-lidded, mouth half-open, prick half-hard in the lap the two of them have made together. The movement of Crowley’s hand on Aziraphale’s prick is still slow but inexorable, pressure increasing just ever so slightly. His other hand moves back up over Aziraphale’s heart.

“We have all the time in the world, angel,” he says, low. “All the time in the universe. For this. For everything. Everything you want, everything you’ve dreamed. I know it, I’ve seen it, I want it. All of it.” Crowley moves forward, kisses his lips, so lightly. “All of you.”

Aziraphale clutches at Crowley’s head and brings their mouths crashing together, and Crowley plunges his tongue in, knowing just what he needs. The friction on Aziraphale’s prick is exquisite now, Crowley’s hand hot and wet with his arousal, sliding and gripping. Crowley kisses him deeply, so deeply, wide open and searching, and Aziraphale gives him his tongue, his heart, his soul: here, I’m here, you’ve brought me here. Joy bursts through him.

He shouts into Crowley’s mouth, and Crowley moans back into him, wringing the pleasure from him as his hips judder, then slowing to a gentle caress until Aziraphale relaxes, boneless, against the carpet.

But Crowley is not finished. “Angel,” he rasps into Aziraphale’s ear, “angel,” and his sinuous hips are working against Aziraphale again. Now it’s Crowley’s prick in the crease of Aziraphale’s thigh, and Aziraphale is awash in tenderness. He kisses Crowley softly, wraps an arm around his waist, cups his arse to press him snugly against his body. “My dear,” he murmurs, "you want me again? So soon?"

"I warned you," Crowley growls. His eyes are aflame, and he thrusts against Aziraphale, panting and gasping. Aziraphale is amazed to see on Crowley’s face, in Crowley’s distorted anguished movements, the reflection of his own clawing hunger. He wants to give him everything, everything. He pushes himself up against Crowley, works his hips against him as Crowley slides through the slickness of his spend. He grips Crowley harder, and, feeling daring, slides his other hand down between them, runs his thumb along the corona of his prick. “Nynnng,” Crowley grits out.

“Is it good?” Aziraphale breathes.

“Yesss!”

Aziraphale rubs his thumb back and forth just under the velvet head, his hips matching the tempo of Crowley's feverish rutting. The sensations are voluptuous, but Aziraphale is all heart now. "My love," he calls gently to Crowley, "my love."

Crowley cries out once, voice breaking, and buries his face in Aziraphale's shoulder as the spasms take him. Aziraphale rejoices to feel Crowley's prick pulsing against him, Crowley's damp face grimacing against him, Crowley's hips thrashing into him. He holds on, hoping he's making it good, whispering "Yes, yes, my love, my dearest."

Crowley collapses on top of him, panting, and Aziraphale holds him tenderly, joyfully. Crowley is still for a minute at most, then leans up on his forearms and covers Aziraphale in kisses, all over his face, neck, ears. He is exuberant and ever so slightly ridiculous, and in a moment they are both laughing.

"I -- oh, goodness," Aziraphale catches his breath, kisses Crowley's cheek, twines his fingers in the ruddy waves of his hair. "I love you so awfully much."

"Nothing awful about it," Crowley says, leaning into his touch.

“There is, though,” Aziraphale counters. “I am full of awe.” He kisses Crowley’s pliant mouth, amazed anew that he can.

Crowley hums into the kiss. Aziraphale feels Crowley's hand wandering, notes that he too is hard again. He gives an experimental grind up against Crowley's hand and hip as sensation flares.

"Gosh," he says, sucking in a breath. "How long could we go on like this?"

Crowley presses down more firmly, a glint in his eyes. "Long as you like. Long as we're still hungry."

Aziraphale bites Crowley's jaw and shivers. "I think I am going to be hungry, very hungry, for a long time."

You've read this story before. This is the story of how the angel, miserable with terror on the perilous, shifting deck, leaps bravely into the abyss, and how he lands, secure in the demon's love, on terra firma.

The rain lasts four days, and the weather continues dodgy for some time after that (it is February, after all). They do not leave the cottage for more than a week. That first night, they eventually move to the sofa. By the third day, they have explored most of the available furniture. On the morning of the fifth day, when Aziraphale has filled himself with Crowley in every way he's ever read about -- and Crowley has filled himself with him, and what a revelation that was -- Crowley miracles a full English on a tray on their bed. For it is their bed now. Aziraphale has even slept in it.

Aziraphale eats heartily. Crowley steals bacon from the plate, smirking at him. Aziraphale leans back against the pillows and sighs in repletion.

Spring will find them in the garden together, where Aziraphale will have convinced Crowley to plant herbs and vegetables (but only if Aziraphale tends them), and Aziraphale will be wearing a sunhat and trying to keep soil off the pages of the Royal Horticultural Society’s Fruit and Vegetable Gardening Book. They will work, but not very hard, looking forward to a modest harvest of carrots and cabbages while continuing to reap the best bounty of all.

And Aziraphale will still be anxious from time to time, for even an angel can't throw off thousands of years of self-doubt in a season, or even in a decade. He will still worry that he isn't enough for Crowley -- for Crowley is everything -- or that he's too much for Crowley -- look at the outrageous enormity of his love! Crowley will do what he does best: love Aziraphale, with patience, with compassion, unwavering; a rock for him to break against, a beacon to light his way.