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the other way round

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It’s a quiet night at the bookshop. Of course, most nights at the bookshop are quiet—that’s what Crowley likes about them. The steadiness of them, the easiness of them, the familiarity of them. The habit of them. Sometimes they drink together, swapping stories and wondering about the workings of the world, sometimes there’s dinner or nibbles, sometimes something a little more, well, sweaty to be going on with, but some nights are just like this: Aziraphale tinkering somewhere in the shop while Crowley sprawls over the sofa, knitting scarves or reading floriography books or leaking old pictures of politicians on Twitter.

He’s just sent a Tweet with a terribly unflattering but highly enlightening old school photograph of the current prime minister attached when Aziraphale appears in front of him. “Hello,” Crowley grins up, though he sobers at the sight of Aziraphale’s nervous smile, at his twisting hands. “All right?”‌

“Would you mind terribly?” he asks, gesturing vaguely to the seat next to Crowley on the sofa.

“Course not,”‌ Crowley says.

So Aziraphale sits, a little gingerly, and then very slowly and awkwardly, in fits and starts, he begins to tip sideways and lower himself down. “Oh!” Crowley says when he realises what Aziraphale means to do, jolting his arms up and out of the way. Usually it’s a bit the other way round, Crowley’s head cushioned gently in Aziraphale’s lap as they while away these quiet nights; they’ve never done it this way.

Aziraphale scrambles back upright, out of his space. “Sorry! Sorry, don’t know what I was thinking—”

“No, that’s not—it’s all right, just surprised me. C’mere, angel.” And it is all right, and Crowley wants it, wants it because they’ve never done it, wants it because Aziraphale was asking for it in that clumsy, not-asking way he had when he wasn’t sure he was allowed.

He wants Aziraphale to be allowed everything.

Crowley reaches out, and this time he helps Aziraphale settle himself down sideways on the sofa, finding the right spot, the right way to balance his head on Crowley’s thighs. “You comfy?”

He doesn’t seem comfy. He’s holding himself perfectly still, not even breathing, and his every muscle is tense and strained, like he’s afraid of letting Crowley’s leg take the full weight of his head. “Um,” Aziraphale says tentatively, “Not sure, really. You make it look so relaxing, I suppose, but I’m not sure—that is to say, I don’t quite—not that there’s anything wrong with your lap, of course—”

Crowley huffs a little laugh, and lets the fingers of one hand drift gently over Aziraphale’s hair. “It’s not relaxing if you hold yourself like a statue, angel. Loosen up, relax against me. I’ve got you, I promise.”

Aziraphale is quiet, then, so Crowley keeps his fingers in his hair, combing through the soft white curls, brushing his thumb occasionally along the nape of his neck, and little by little, he begins to relax. His head grows heavier against Crowley’s legs; his shoulders slouch a little as he softens into the hold.

He’s beautiful like this, Crowley thinks, and that he would ask it of Crowley, this little moment of intimacy, that he would trust Crowley with it—it fills Crowley’s chest with fire and light, with protectiveness and hope, and with so, so much love. Such a towering, star-dazzling love; such a tender, apricot-soft love.

Aziraphale’s breathing begins again in that slow, deep rhythm he prefers. Crowley feels like every breath is opening something up inside him, carving something open, blurring his vision and making his throat feel thick and hot.

“Are you all right, dear boy?” Aziraphale asks, ever so quietly. His hand catches Crowley’s hand out of his hair, pulling it around to kiss his palm.

“Yeah,” Crowley answers, because he is, he’s never been so all right in all his eternal life. “I love you.”

Aziraphale hums, and kisses Crowley’s wrist once before letting him go back to running his fingers through his hair. “I love you terribly,” he says, barely more than a whisper, and he’s said it before but there’s a different confession in it now: a sort of fear that he’s admitting, that he’s putting into Crowley’s hands and letting him soothe away, significant not because it’s there but because he’s giving it up. “It’s reckless, how much I love you.”

“S’only reckless if there’s a risk,” Crowley answers, “but I’ve got you, angel. I promise that I always will.”

The last thread of tension eases out of Aziraphale’s frame, and he tips his head to give Crowley’s knee, the closest thing within reach, a kiss.I know you will,” he says, and Crowley hears it in his voice: that ineffably limitless, everlasting faith Aziraphale is capable of, believed now with Crowley’s name woven into it as if it has always been there. “I know.”